KYIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine agreed on Sunday to talks with Russia “without preconditions,” at the same time as President Vladimir V. Putin escalated tensions by putting his nuclear forces on alert.
Mr. Zelensky mentioned that he would ship a delegation to meet with Russian officers close to the border with Belarus, at a nonetheless undetermined time, but that he would stay in Kyiv, together with his high officers.
“I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting,” he mentioned, “but let them try to make sure that no citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as a president, have not tried to stop the war.”
Ukrainian officers took some apparent satisfaction in Russia’s name for talks, which got here as its forces met much more resistance than anticipated, failing to shortly seize the capital, Kyiv.
“The enemy expected an easy walk, but got real hell,” mentioned Prime Minister Denys Shmygal. Russia’s leaders, he mentioned, “does not understand that it is at war not only with the armed forces of Ukraine, but with the entire Ukrainian people.”
The request for talks additionally got here because the European Union moved to impose powerful new financial sanctions on Russia, and as demonstrations in Berlin, Prague, London, Madrid and Brussels over the weekend on behalf of Ukrainians made Moscow’s isolation clear.
But worldwide navy consultants cautioned that the battle is younger.
They famous that Ukrainian forces are unfold skinny, with solely restricted ammunition, and that hundreds of better-trained Russian troopers haven’t but been thrown into the struggle. The fear is that Mr. Putin could transfer to harsher ways, together with the shelling of cities, if his forces get slowed down.
Mr. Putin’s new nuclear menace appeared to be aimed on the West, which has more and more rallied behind Ukraine. In temporary remarks aired on state tv, he instructed his protection minister and his high navy commander to place Russia’s nuclear forces on alert, characterizing the transfer as a response to the West’s “aggressive” actions.
Not solely are Western nations imposing “illegitimate sanctions” towards Russia, Mr. Putin mentioned, “but senior officials of leading NATO countries are allowing themselves to make aggressive statements directed at our country.”
The White House, by way of Jen Psaki, the press secretary, solid the nuclear alert as one other instance of Mr. Putin’s manufacturing menace and utilizing it to justify confrontation.
Top Pentagon leaders stay assured concerning the United States’ capacity to defend itself and its allies, in accordance to a Pentagon official who briefed reporters. The official known as the transfer to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert pointless and escalatory, and mentioned that Mr. Putin had made the potential for a miscalculation far more harmful.
Slowed by Ukrainian resistance and their very own logistical shortcomings, Russian forces have already begun adopting harsher strategies akin to rocket assaults within the metropolis of Chernihiv, to the northeast of Kyiv, the Pentagon official mentioned. Those ways might produce many extra civilian casualties.
Russian troops, he mentioned, are adopting a siege mentality, which will increase the chance of their taking civilian life and damaging infrastructure.
In Ukraine’s south, the official mentioned, Russian troops are advancing, transferring up from Crimea and likewise mounting an amphibious assault close to Mariupol, the place they’re inside 50 kilometers of town. Mariupol, a serious port, is seen as a part of any Russian land bridge from Donetsk and Luhansk — the jap Ukrainian areas Moscow simply acknowledged as impartial states — to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Russian forces have been additionally on the transfer from the north, the place they have been making a drive towards Kyiv.
In the middle of Ukraine, Russia seems to be attempting to reduce off the principle Ukrainian navy forces, which have been defending the previous line of contact with the Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves, to stop them from transferring towards the capital and getting provides despatched by Western allies overland by way of Poland.
Russian troops, a minimum of for a time, additionally drew nearer to the middle of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest metropolis, in accordance to movies and images analyzed by The New York Times. The footage confirmed Ukrainians firing rockets towards Russian troops, in addition to some Russian navy automobiles burning and others being ransacked by Ukrainian forces.
With every passing day of battle, Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian, has embraced his new position: as an emblem of bravery and patriotism who has united his residents towards an invader.
Once derided due to his leisure previous because the unlikeliest of presidents, Mr. Zelensky has reworked into the chief Ukraine didn’t realize it wanted. Dressed in an army-green T-shirt or fleece, unshaven and wan, he has impressed Ukrainians to defend their streets with probably the most rudimentary of weapons. He has additionally gained over a lot of Europe, which has been moved to assist a rustic it sees as combating bravely for independence, freedom and democracy.
Mr. Zelensky’s resolution to stay in Kyiv — and his household’s resolution to stay in Ukraine — has moved many. Some have drawn an unflattering distinction with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as quickly because the Taliban have been on the outskirts, demoralizing what was left of the Afghan military.
And Mr. Zelensky’s response to a reported American provide to evacuate him — “I need ammunition, not a ride” — will probably go down in Ukrainian historical past, regardless of the end result of the battle.
The Ukrainian president and his crew have made deft use of social media. His impassioned speeches from the streets of Kyiv have gone viral. And they’ve additionally posted images and brief movies of Ukrainians filling Molotov cocktails, volunteering to struggle, being issued computerized weapons and vowing to defend their nation.
Mr. Zelensky has additionally impressed European leaders to do extra to assist his nation. His management and the resilience of the Ukrainian folks “are an inspiration to us all,” mentioned Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
Understand Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is on the root of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine inside its pure sphere of affect, and it has grown unnerved at Ukraine’s closeness with the West and the prospect that the nation may be part of NATO or the European Union. While Ukraine is a part of neither, it receives monetary and navy assist from the United States and Europe.
Appearing onscreen throughout than an emergency summit assembly of European Union leaders a number of days in the past, he gave a passionate 10-minute speech that moved some reluctant leaders to endorse a harsher bundle of financial sanctions on Russia, mentioned a senior European official who was within the room.
“This may be the last time you see me alive,” Mr. Zelensky instructed them.
The silence within the room after Mr. Zelensky spoke was spectacular, the official mentioned, and it was his impression the speech made a serious distinction in convincing extra reluctant nations, like Germany, Italy and Hungary, to agree to harder monetary and banking sanctions and to ship defensive weapons to Ukraine.
The new authorities of Germany additionally made what some think about a historic shift towards taking extra duty for European safety. Hampered by its personal totalitarian historical past, Germany has been a reluctant hard-power participant for the reason that collapse of the Soviet Union. But on Sunday, in a powerful speech earlier than the German Parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz turned the web page.
Germany will ship defensive weapons to Ukraine; assist harder financial sanctions, together with the exclusion of main Russian banks from the SWIFT funds system; and lift navy spending to greater than 2 % of its gross home product for the foreseeable future — lengthy a NATO objective that Germany had resisted. Mr. Scholz additionally proposed a 100 billion euro fund to strengthen the German military.
Mr. Scholz, a member of the Social Democratic Party, which has been identified for its closeness to Moscow, additionally mentioned that Germany would agree to exchange its ageing Tornado fighters with newer planes able to dropping nuclear bombs. He already had damaged with earlier German coverage by agreeing to placed on maintain the Nord Stream 2 pure fuel pipeline, which matches from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.
Mr. Scholz, German officers say, believes that Mr. Putin lied to him personally of their direct talks in Moscow concerning the Ukraine disaster and that the Russian invasion created severe new threats to German and European safety that can not be ignored.
Claudia Major, a protection professional with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, known as the adjustments “a revolution in German defense policy,’’ while Jana Puglierin, director of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said: “It is hard to overestimate the significance of this. I would not have thought it possible.”
In an emergency digital assembly of European Union international ministers on Sunday, the bloc agreed to additional powerful financial sanctions on Russia and to ban Russian plane from E.U. bloc’s airspace. They additionally agreed for the primary time to use E.U. funding to reimburse member nations for the acquisition and cargo of navy gear to a rustic below assault.
Ms. von der Leyen, the fee president, known as it “a watershed moment.”
Weapons and gear of every kind are being despatched overland by way of Poland into western Ukraine, which continues to be out of Russia’s attain. Some consultants suppose Russian efforts to disrupt such convoys will improve as soon as the shipments are inside Ukraine.
Ms. von der Leyen additionally mentioned that the European Union would transfer to ban the state-owned information shops Russia Today and Sputnik, so that they “will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division.”
Europe will proceed to welcome refugees, she mentioned. As many as seven million Ukrainians are internally displaced by the battle, European officers mentioned.
In Kyiv, Nataly Kasianenko, 31, has been sheltering for days along with her husband and a dachshund in a parking storage within the northern Obolon neighborhood, six miles from town middle, which was the scene of intense combating on Friday and Saturday. “I actually lost track of days and nights and nights,’’ she said. “We even forgot to eat because of this tension.”
Despite the worry, she mentioned, they’re staying.
“It’s in our blood, it’s Ukrainian blood,” she mentioned. “We can’t just leave, we cannot just surrender — we will always stay on our land.”
Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv, Anton Troianovski from Moscow and Steven Erlanger from Brussels. Andrew E. Kramer, Michael Schwirtz, Marc Santora, Helene Cooper, Aishvarya Kavi, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Monika Pronczuk, Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.