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Key Words: Ukrainian activist tells Boris Johnson World War III has already started and ‘Ukrainian children [are] taking the hit’

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““NATO is afraid of World War III, but it is already started. And it is Ukrainian children, who are there, taking the hit.” ”

That’s what Ukrainian activist Daria Kaleniuk told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a press conference in Poland on Tuesday. Kaleniuk, who is the executive director of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center, called out Johnson for failing to live up to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. 

Under the three identical 1994 agreements, nuclear powers including the U.S., the U.K. and the Russian Federation promised to protect Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan “against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of each country, in exchange for each country giving up its nuclear weapons. 

“Ukrainian women and Ukrainian children are living in deep fear because of bombs and missiles which are going from the sky,” she said. “And Ukrainian people are desperately asking for the West to protect our sky.” 

Her pleas echo that of Olga Gvozdyova, who describes life under the Russian shelling in a “Letter from Kyiv” for MarketWatch. 

“I am writing this from an underground shelter where I and 20 other people are staying for the night,” she wrote. “Since the start of the invasion, the nights have been especially dangerous, and, if people have an opportunity, they sleep in underground shelters. Some sleep in metro stations as they, too, serve as bomb shelters.” 

Gvozdyov also said that this situation demands unprecedented actions, such as closing the airspace above Ukraine so that Russian bombs can’t hit any more civilian buildings. 

“The international community should do everything to stop civilians from dying right now in the middle of Europe,” she wrote. “Or be ashamed for the rest of their lives.” 

Letter from Kyiv: ‘I have something to say to the Russian people: You should fight against your own dictators. Freedom is not given; it’s taken.’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also urged U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO to impose a no-fly zone on Monday. “We need the West to impose a no-fly zone over significant parts of Ukraine,” Zelensky told Axios. While he said that sanctions are heading in the right direction, they need more force behind them. “Ukraine can beat the aggressor. We are proving this to the world. But our allies must also do their part,” he said. 

Zelensky, who has been emerging as a war hero and cultural icon during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, got a standing ovation after addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday via video screen. He said that Ukrainians are fighting for freedom and democracy, but also for full membership in the European Union.

His plea came as a 40-mile Russian convoy consisting of hundreds of armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was seen just 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the center of Kyiv on Monday, according to satellite imagery. And activist Kaleniuk told Johnson on Tuesday that Ukrainian women and children cannot escape the country right now. 

“It is impossible now to cross the border,” she said, before arguing that NATO troops are “coming to Poland, [but] you’re not coming to Kyiv” and Kharkiv. The latter, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city, was bombarded by shelling on Tuesday, including civilian targets like the symbolic Freedom Square. 

Kaleniuk also peppered the prime minister with questions about why the United Kingdom and NATO have not sanctioned Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who reportedly has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abramovich handed over “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees on Saturday in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“And you say you are going to impose more sanctions, Prime Minister, but Roman Abramovich has not been sanctioned yet. He is in London. His children are not in the bombardments, his children are there in London,” she said. “Putin’s children are in the Netherlands. In Germany. In mansions … were all these mansions seized? I do not see that.”

And she ended by breaking down in tears while saying, “My family members, my team members, are saying we are crying, we don’t know where to run. This is what is happening, Prime Minister.”

Clips of her exchange with Johnson went viral on Tuesday, the same day that Zelensky accused Moscow of resorting to terror tactics and war crimes, particularly the “frank, undisguised terror” of the attack on Freedom Square

Johnson responded by admitting that he was, “acutely conscious that there is not enough we can do as the U.K. government to help in the way that you want.”  

And he added that by shooting down Russian planes, the U.K. would be engaged in direct combat with Russia. “That’s not something we can do,” he said. “I think the consequences of that would be truly very, very difficult to control.” 

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg echoed that sentiment on Tuesday, stating, “NATO is a defensive alliance, we do not seek conflict with Russia. Russia must immediately stop the war, pull all its forces from Ukraine and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts.” 

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden will not send U.S. troops to fight Russia in Ukraine, and that pledge also extends to a no-fly zone. 

“Here’s what’s important for everybody to know about a no-fly zone: What that would require is implementation by the U.S. military. It would essentially mean the U.S. military would be shooting down Russian planes,” Psaki told MSNBC. “That is definitely escalatory, that would potentially put us into a place where we’re in a military conflict with Russia. That is not something the president wants to do.”

Biden is expected to discuss the Russian-Ukraine conflict in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET. Here’s where to watch, as well as what experts think Biden will say about the war, inflation and the U.S. economy.

And U.S. stocks traded lower near midday Tuesday as Russia warned it would begin “high-precision” strikes on Kyiv as its invasion enters a sixth day.

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