NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects a further intensification of the fighting and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, he told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
He said Ukrainians were resisting Russian forces with courage and determination, but the coming days could get worse.
Stoltenberg also dismissed recent “absurd claims” by Moscow that the US was secretly operating laboratories in Ukraine to make chemical and biological weapons.
“Now that these false allegations have been made, we must remain vigilant, because it is possible that Russia itself could be conducting missions with chemical weapons under this tissue of lie,” he said.
He also rejected calls for NATO to impose and enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “That could mean a direct confrontation and escalation. We need to end this war, not let it expand,” he added.
As a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said: “End this war, withdraw all your forces back and commit to diplomacy.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed fellow Ukrainians in an online speech and reiterated their right to live in their land on their own terms.
Zelenskyy also said Russian forces would create new people’s republics in captured territories, similar to those operating in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014. Moscow recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” immediately before its invasion of Ukraine.
“The occupiers on the territory of the Kherson region are trying to repeat the sad experience of the formation of pseudo republics,” Zelenskyy said.
“They are blackmailing local leaders, putting pressure on deputies, looking for someone to bribe,” he added.
Zelenskyy said such “pseudo republics” would end up being isolated from the rest of the world and face poverty, crime and exodus.
Zelenskyy said the withdrawal of IT professionals, businesses and artists from Russia was the fate that awaited Donetsk and Luhansk as well.
Towns and villages in the Kherson region have been under occupation by Russian troops since the first days of the war.
Urging Ukrainians to continue their fight, he said they would regain what is theirs. “Ukraine will not forget. Ukraine will find and prosecute,” he said.
Zelenskyy said the agreed-upon humanitarian corridors worked and that aid would be arriving in Mariupol on Sunday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron urged an immediate cease-fire during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Elysee Palace called the call “very frank and difficult.” The Kremlin said Putin “informed the leaders about the real state of affairs.”