Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a direct appeal to Belarus soldiers, who recently joined the war in support of Russia, telling them plainly that they will not live if they continue to fight against Ukraine.
“Firstly, all pilots, dispatchers, mechanics, and other people who ensure the launch of missiles at Ukraine must understand: We will find you all,” Zelenskyy said during an address on Sunday night.
Belarus is Ukraine’s northern neighbor.
“Each of you will be responsible for these strikes,” he added. “And if someone thinks that he will evade responsibility by saying that such was the order, you are mistaken.”
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The threatening words came as a Russian missile strike from Belarus hit a Ukrainian kindergarten and an apartment building, killing a 37-year-old man and injuring the man’s 7-year-old daughter and wife.
“When your missiles hit residential buildings, these are war crimes,” the Ukrainian president said. “Trial is what awaits you all. And there will be nowhere to hide for you – neither on the shores of the Caspian Sea, over which your missiles are launched nor in Belarus… Nowhere.”
Zelenskyy said Belarusians do not have to die, however. He said both Belarusian soldiers and civilians can choose life by not “being drawn into the war.”
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“You do not have to die. And you can prevent anyone from deciding for you what awaits you next,” he said.
“Your lives belong only to you, not to someone in the Kremlin,” the Ukrainian president added.
Zelenskyy said the Belarusian people should “refuse to participate in this war” as “Ukraine will defend itself from strikes from any direction and from any weapon.”
Kyiv claims Russia has lost about 35,000 troops since the country first invaded on Feb. 24. This figure is more than double the number of military combatants Russia lost during its nine-year war in Afghanistan.
Zelenskyy’s Sunday address came just hours before he joined G-7 leaders virtually during the summit in the Bavarian Alps. The group has been discussing the war in Ukraine, plans to adopt new sanctions against Moscow and an infrastructure project to challenge China.
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