KYIV (AFP) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday (Feb 28) urged the European Union to grant his country "immediate" membership, as Russia's assault against the pro-Western country went into its fifth day.
"We appeal to the European Union for the immediate accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure," the 44-year-old leader said in a new video address.
"Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I'm sure it's fair. I'm sure it's possible."
He said 16 children had died during the first four days of Moscow's assault and another 45 were wounded as he hailed "Ukrainian heroes".
The UN's human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday that at least 102 civilians, including seven children, had been killed but warned the real numbers were probably far higher.
"Ukrainians have shown the world who we are. And Russia has shown what it has become," Mr Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian leader - a former comedian who came to power in 2019 - released his latest video statement as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators prepared to sit down for their first face-to-face talks since Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade last Thursday.
Mr Zelensky urged Russian soldiers to lay down their weapons.
"Abandon your equipment. Get out of here. Don't believe your commanders. Don't believe your propagandists. Just save your lives," Mr Zelensky said.
He claimed that more than 4,500 Russian soldiers had already lost their lives during the Kremlin's assault. Russia has admitted to deaths and casualties but given no toll.
The Ukrainian leader also said authorities would release convicts with combat experience so that they could help defend the country.
"We have taken a decision which is not easy from the moral point of view, but which is useful from the point of view of our defences," he said.
He once again thanked the West for its support.
"Support of our anti-war coalition is unconditional and unprecedented," he said.
"Each of us is a warrior," he said. "And I am sure that each of us will win."
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves around the world.
Ukraine forces, backed by Western arms, have managed to slow the advance of the Russian army.