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Zelenskyy says Russia wants to 'erase our country'

March 2, 2022

Ukraine's president has condemned Russia's attack on Kyiv, saying the conflict cannot be won with rockets and bombs. He also called on Jewish people to speak out after a missile strike damaged a Holocaust site.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned a Russian attack on Kyiv that damaged a Holocaust memorial Image: Ukraine Presidency press service/AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday accused Russia of trying to "erase" his country and its history.

Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine six days ago with attacks on the capital, Kyiv, and other cities. Since then,  hundreds of thousands of people have fled to safety in neighboring countries.

Speaking in a video address, Zelenskyy claimed that almost 6,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since the invasion began on Thursday, adding that Moscow cannot win the conflict with rockets and bombs.

Russia's Major General Igor Konashenkov later said 498 Russian troops had been killed and 1,597 more wounded, the first time Moscow had issued specific figures on casualties. He dismissed the higher death toll as "disinformation.''  

A woman cuddles her newborn baby in her arms at a basement used as a bomb shelter at the Okhmadet children's hospital in central Kyiv
A woman cuddles her newborn baby in her arms at a basement used as a bomb shelter at the Okhmadet children's hospital in central KyivImage: Emilio Morenatti/AP/picture alliance

Strike damages Babyn Yar

Zelenskyy also condemned a Russian missile strike that hit a television tower in the capital and damaged the site of a Holocaust massacre, saying it shows that "for many people in Russia our Kyiv is completely foreign."

"They know nothing about our capital. About our history. But they have an order to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase us all," he said.

A missile strike on Kyiv's TV tower next to a road
Kyiv's TV tower is next to the Babyn Yar Holocaust MemorialImage: Carlos Barria/REUTERS

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the strike near the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial. During World War II, German occupying troops killed more than 33,000 Jews at the site.

"We all died again by Babyn Yar. Although the world has promised again and again that it will never happen again," said Zelenskyy, who is Jewish.

"Don't you see what is happening? That's why it is very important now that you, millions of Jews around the world, do not stay silent. Because Nazism is born in silence. Scream about murdering of civilians, scream about murdering of Ukrainians."

Holocaust remembrance organizations have also condemned the attack.

Russia intensifies attacks on Ukraine

Russia claims control of Kherson

Russian forces have faced tougher than expected resistance since the invasion began and have not released their own casualty figures.

On Wednesday, Russia's army claimed to have taken control of the southern city of Kherson, while shelling continued in Mariupol and Kharkiv. Meanwhile, a massive Russian convoy has been inching toward Kyiv from the north.

DW correspondent Mathias Bölinger, who is in western Ukraine, said it was not clear what the massive Russian military convoy advancing toward Kyiv would do next.

"We have seen these columns standing there for some time. There are also questions about how long they can stand there because all the fuel and food that they have with them will be eaten away in the time they are standing there."

nm/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)