Ukraine's Zelenskiy says tougher Russian sanctions needed quickly

A handout photo. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 28, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters via Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday (March 28) urged Western nations to toughen sanctions quickly against Russia, including an oil embargo, to stop Moscow having a free hand to escalate its measures against his country.

In his nightly video address to Ukrainians, a clearly irritated Zelenskiy said the West had miscalculated last year in delaying sanctions and the invasion had followed.

"A full-scale war has begun. Now there are many hints and warnings that supposedly tougher sanctions, such as an embargo on Russian oil supplies to Europe, will be put in place if Russia uses chemical weapons," Zelenskiy said, occasionally banging his hands on a table.

"There are simply no words ... We, people who are alive, have to wait. Doesn't everything the Russia military has done to date warrant an oil embargo? Don't phosphorous bombs warrant it? A shelled chemical production facility or a shelled nuclear power plant doesn't warrant it?"

Russia's month-old invasion of Ukraine, the biggest European conflict since World War Two, has seen over 3.8 million Ukrainians flee abroad, left thousands dead or injured and isolated Russia's economy. 

Zelenskiy said sanctions had to be "effective and serious" given Russia's actions to date.

"If the sanctions packages are weak or do not work strongly enough, if they can be circumvented, it creates a dangerous illusion for the Russian leadership, as if they will be permitted to continue doing what they are doing now," he said.

"Ukrainians are paying for this with their lives. Thousands of lives."

ALSO READ: Putin says Russia will emerge stronger, sanctions will rebound on West

The United States has already introduced an embargo on Russian oil shipments. But Europe, far more dependent on Russian energy, has been more hesitant. Germany, Europe's largest economy, has said introducing such an embargo would trigger recession and mass unemployment.