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Western allies have imposed new sanctions against Russia and promised to send more military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine at a series of unprecedented summits in Brussels aimed at emphasizing a unified response to Russia’s military aggression.

The leaders of the 30 NATO countries, the Group of Seven, and the 27 European Union countries announced the sanctions and additional aid as they held unprecedented back-to-back summits in Brussels on March 24.

The leaders spent the day discussing their response to the war, which has entered its second month, after hearing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s plea for unrestricted military aid and his concerns that Russia could use chemical weapons.

The West should provide “all the weapons we need” to “prevent the deaths of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation,” Zelenskiy told the emergency NATO summit by video link.

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“To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs military assistance without restrictions. In the same way that Russia is using its full arsenal without restrictions against us,” Zelenskiy said as fierce fighting continues in the besieged city of Mariupol and other flash points across the country.

“The alliance can still prevent the deaths of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation, by giving us all the weapons we need,” Zelenskiy added in the video address.

While Zelenskiy suggested the alliance could supply Ukraine with equipment such as anti-missile weapons, tanks, and even jets, his speech was possibly more noteworthy for what he didn’t ask for: the enforcement of a no-fly zone to negate Russia’s air superiority and membership in NATO.

Previously, the Ukrainian leader had made several impassioned pleas for NATO to create and enforce a no-fly zone over the country, a request that has been roundly rejected because the United States and other allies say it will escalate the conflict by bringing NATO forces in direct engagement with Russia’s military.

Instead, Zelenskiy said his request for weapons and other military equipment from NATO members would give Ukraine “just like you, 100 percent security.”

“I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine. Does not think and will not. She wants to go further, against the eastern members of NATO. The Baltic states, Poland — that’s for sure,” he said.

Zelenskiy added that NATO had yet to show what it can do to save people, “to show that this is indeed the most powerful defense alliance in the world.”

Biden used the occasion to slap sanctions on more than 400 Russian politicians, oligarchs, and companies over Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that the expanded list of those sanctioned includes dozens of Russian defense companies, 328 members of the Russian State Duma, and the head of Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank.

Biden also announced that the United States would provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water, and other supplies to Ukraine and accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Britain also announced that it was adding 59 Russian individuals and entities to its sanctions list, effectively freezing their assets and restricting the people on the list from coming to the country. Companies now on the list include Gazprombank, Alfa Bank, and the state-run shipping firm Sovcomflot.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said EU countries need to strengthen their sanctions against Russia and prepare themselves to end their reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

“This is the best time to start to reduce the reliance on energy resources from Russia. This is the best day to punish this country for this terrible military aggression,” Nauseda said after arriving for the EU summit.

In a separate video message late on March 23, Zelenskiy called on the world’s democracies to unite in the face of Russia’s “crude and cruel” force, accusing the invaders of atrocities against civilians and warning the West that freedom must take precedence over economic interests.

“At these three summits, we will see who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money. Life can be defended only when united,” he said.

Russian ground forces slowed or stopped in their tracks by Western-armed Ukrainian troops are resorting to indiscriminately shelling military and civilian targets alike from a distance.

Zelenskiy told the G7 summit that the threat of full-scale use by Russia of chemical weapons in Ukraine is “real,” and accused Russia of having already used phosphorus bombs against civilians.

Speaking ahead of the alliance summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin made a “big mistake” with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg also said any use of chemical weapons would “fundamentally change” the nature of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as it would be a “blatant” violation of international law that will have “widespread and severe consequences.”

He said leaders at the meeting will discuss “the need for a reset of our deterrence and defense in the longer term.”

WATCH: Drone video has revealed widespread devastation in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. The footage posted to social media on March 22 showed the smoldering ruins of damaged residential buildings that have been hit by Russian shelling.

NATO has already said it will double the number of deployments it has in Europe by adding four more. The new installments will be located in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, said on March 24 that Russia was stalling in talks on a cease-fire in Ukraine and won’t take the discussions seriously until it has reached its goals.

A senior U.S. defense official said on March 23 that Moscow’s ground forces appeared to be setting up defensive positions 15 to 20 kilometers outside Kyiv as they had made little to no progress toward the city center.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in some areas east of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops appear to have pushed the Russians farther away.

The official added that there is activity from Russian ships in the Sea of Azov, where the besieged strategic port of Mariupol is located.

The Ukrainian Navy said on March 24 that it had struck a Russian naval transport vessel docked in the Sea of Azov near Mariupol.

“The Orsk large landing ship of the Black Sea Fleet of the occupiers has been destroyed in the port of Berdyansk captured by Russia,” the Ukrainian Navy wrote on social media.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen coming out of a large gray vessel docked next to big cranes in amateur footage of what the Ukrainian Navy said was the strike on the ship.

There was no immediate response to the claim from the Russian Defense Ministry and the strikes could not be independently confirmed.

In an interview with Spain’s TVE broadcast on March 24, Borrell said Putin has his eyes on surrounding the Black Sea coast to the border with Moldova in order to isolate Ukraine from the water.

“Right now, Russia doesn’t want to sit and negotiate anything. What it wants is to occupy the ground,” Borrell said. “It wants to negotiate in earnest only when it has secured a position of strength.”

Biden is scheduled to give a news conference after the March 24 meetings, then head to Poland for talks with leaders in that country, which has taken on the bulk of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the fighting.

The month of pitched battles across Ukraine have pushed almost 4 million civilians out of the country and left tens of thousands stranded in cities without utilities and dwindling foods supplies, creating what the Red Cross has called “apocalyptic” conditions.

The UN General Assembly on March 24 overwhelmingly demanded aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine and criticized Russia for creating a “dire” humanitarian situation.

The resolution, drafted by Ukraine and allies, received 140 votes in favor and five against — from Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea, and Belarus — and 38 abstentions.

Despite the sanctions and diplomatic pressure being exerted on Moscow, the Red Cross said the situation was becoming dire in some parts of Ukraine.

Mariupol, which had a population of 400,000 before the war, has been reduced to rubble, with thousands of civilians dead and many more seeking a route out of the city to safety.

International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer was in Moscow on March 24. Maurer said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had discussed the need to protect civilians during Moscow’s operations in Ukraine.

“We certainly also discussed the international humanitarian law and provisions of the Geneva Convention in regard to conduct of hostilities…that civilians must be protected,” Maurer said at a joint press conference with Lavrov.

Moscow has not provided an update to casualty figures since early in the invasion, when it said on March 2 that 498 soldiers had been killed. However, a NATO official told AP that the Russian death toll was likely to be between 7,000 to 14,000, although numbers on both sides are impossible to independently confirm.

Ukraine’s General Staff of the armed forces said in a tweet on March 23 that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers had died in the fighting.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters



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