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The battle for Ukraine’s Donbas will be remembered for its brutality, Zelensky says.


Ukraine’s fight to defend the Donbas region against Russia will “go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday.

Mr. Zelensky reiterated his conviction that Ukraine would emerge victorious, naming a string of Russian-occupied regions around the country, including the cities of Kherson, Melitopol and Mariupol, and pledging that Ukrainian forces would arrive to liberate them.

Mr. Zelensky’s efforts to depict Russia’s invasion as a watershed moment in European history echo a rhetorical strategy he has used liberally with world leaders, often to great success. He tapped the history of World War II, for example, when delivering an address to the British Parliament that conjured for lawmakers the stormy days of Britain facing down Nazi Germany.

The “darkest hour” strategy has sometimes misfired: Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, affronted some Israeli lawmakers in March when he drew parallels between the suffering of Ukrainians during the war and that of Jewish people during the Holocaust.

Mr. Zelensky’s nightly address on Monday, however, also provided painfully concrete details about the war’s devastating toll.

Russian shelling had killed a 6-year-old boy in Lysychansk, he reported. Residents in the eastern Ukrainian city have been living under attack and without basic utilities as fighting rages in neighboring Sievierodonetsk. The United Nations said in early June that on average, at least two children had been killed every day since the start of the war.

Mr. Zelensky’s address also emphasized, as it has nearly every day, Ukraine’s need for more weapons from Western allies.

Ukrainian officials have said they are outgunned 10-1 in some cases, and on Monday a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky speculated in a New York Times interview that Western governments were slow-walking military aid in hopes that Russia and Ukraine would agree to a cease-fire, even if it meant ceding Ukrainian territory.

Mr. Zelensky appeared to touch on the accusations from the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, in his address, saying that liberating Russian-occupied territories “only takes enough weapons.”

“The partners have it,” he said. “In sufficient quantities. And we work every day for the political will to give us these weapons to appear.”

Mr. Podolyak said in the interview with The Times that Ukraine needed 300 mobile multiple-launch rocket systems, 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones to achieve parity with Russia in the Donbas region where fighting is concentrated — numbers many times beyond anything that has been publicly discussed in the West.

The United States and its allies have provided about 100 howitzers and several dozen self-propelled artillery guns, and the Biden administration promised this month to send multiple-launch rocket systems.

Mr. Podolyak laid out the specific number of weapons that Ukraine thinks it needs for the first time before NATO defense ministers gather in Brussels this week. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III of the United States is scheduled to host a meeting of the so-called Ukraine Defense Contact Group to discuss further aid.

Andrew E. Kramer and Valerie Hopkins contributed reporting.



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