Russia waging 'total war' in Ukraine, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia is waging "total war" on his country, and that includes inflicting as many casualties and destroying as much infrastructure as possible.

Heavy fighting continues to rage in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region

Updates from Day 89 of the invasion

  • Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison over war crime conviction.

  • Russia threatens to hold trials for captured Mariupol defenders.

  • Veteran Russian diplomat quits, denounces Moscow's war in Ukraine. 

  • Ukraine's president calls for 'maximum' sanctions against Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia is waging "total war" on his country, and that includes inflicting as many casualties and destroying as much infrastructure as possible.

Zelensky made the comments in his nightly address on Monday, the eve of the three-month anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In it, he noted that since Feb. 24, the Russian army has launched 1,474 missile strikes on Ukraine, using 2,275 different missiles. He said the vast majority hit civilian targets. There have been more than 3,000 Russian airstrikes over that period.

"Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years," he said, referring to the Second World War.

Zelensky said an attack on the town of Desna, 55 kilometres north of the capital Kyiv, resulted in 87 deaths.

The Russians have now concentrated their forces on Donbas cities such as Bakhmut, Popasnaya and Sievierodonetsk, he said.

The Donbas is a mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in Eastern Ukraine. Swaths of the Donbas have been under the control of Moscow-backed rebels since 2014, and Russia says its goal in the war now is the complete capture and control of the region after an initial drive to capture Kyiv was thwarted by stiff resistance.

Zelensky called on Ukrainians who are not on the battlefield to help in whatever way they can and said his own task was working to increase international pressure on Russia. "The absolute priority is weapons and ammunition for Ukraine."

Russian soldier sentenced for war crimes

A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison on Monday for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial held since Russia's invasion.

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.

He pleaded guilty and testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin listens to his translator during a court hearing in Kyiv on Monday. The soldier, who pleaded guilty to killing a Ukrainian civilian, was sentenced to life in prison. (Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)

Russian diplomat quits

In a rare public expression of opposition to the war from the ranks of the Russian elite, a veteran Kremlin diplomat resigned and sent a scathing letter to foreign colleagues in which he said of the invasion, "Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year."

Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat at the United Nations office in Geneva, resigned and sent a letter railing against the "aggressive war unleashed" by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bondarev told The Associated Press: "It is intolerable what my government is doing now."

In his letter, Bondarev said those who conceived the war "want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity."

He also said Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is all about "warmongering, lies and hatred."

Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat at the United Nations office in Geneva, is shown in an image taken with permission from his passport photo page. Bondarev resigned and sent a letter railing against the 'aggressive war unleashed' by Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Boris Bondarev/The Associated Press)

Zelensky calls for 'maximum' sanctions

Earlier on Sunday, Zelensky called for "maximum" sanctions against Russia in a video address to world leaders and executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Zelensky told the forum that sanctions against the Kremlin need to go further. He urged an embargo on Russian oil, a complete cutoff of trade with Russia and a withdrawal of foreign companies from the country.

"This is what sanctions should be: They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbour would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions," said Zelensky, who received a standing ovation.

Speaking via videolink, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the opening plenary session of the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday. (Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

Mariupol defenders could face trial

Russian authorities have threatened to hold trials of captured Ukrainians, namely the fighters who held out at Mariupol's shattered steelworks, the last stronghold of resistance in the strategic southern port city. They surrendered and were taken prisoner last week, at which point Moscow claimed the capture of Mariupol was complete.

Russia's main investigative body said it intends to interrogate the Mariupol defenders to "identify the nationalists" and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians. Russian authorities have seized upon the far-right origins of one of the regiments there, calling the Azov Regiment's fighters "Nazis" and accusing their commander of "numerous atrocities" — without evidence.

Russia's top prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to designate the Azov Regiment a terrorist organization.

Family members of the fighters have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine. Russia's deputy foreign minister, Andrei Rudenko, said he is open to "any possibility that doesn't contradict common sense."