President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashes out at West's cowardice about "how and who should" hand the jets and other weapons while Moscow rains missile and artilleries on Ukrainian cities.

Zelenskyy accuses Western governments of being
Zelenskyy accuses Western governments of being "afraid to prevent this tragedy. Afraid to simply make a decision." (Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused the West of cowardice as his country fights to stave off Russia's assaulting troops, making an exasperated plea for fighter jets and tanks to sustain a defence as the war ground into a battle of attrition.

Speaking after US President Joe Biden said in a lacerating speech on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin could not stay in power — words he and the White House sought to downplay — Zelenskyy lashed out at the West's "ping-pong about who and how should" the jets be handed and other weapons while Russian missile attacks kill and trap civilians.

In his pointed remarks, Zelenskyy accused Western governments of being "afraid to prevent this tragedy. Afraid to simply make a decision."

"So, who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it still Moscow, thanks to its scare tactics?" he asked. "Our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine."

"I’ve talked to the defenders of Mariupol today. I'm in constant contact with them. Their determination, heroism and firmness are astonishing," Zelenskyy said in a video address, referring to the besieged southern city that has suffered some of the assault's greatest deprivations and horrors. 

"If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had 1 percent of their courage."

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy signed a law on Sunday that bans reporting on troop and equipment movements that haven't been announced or approved by the military. 

Journalists who violate the law could face three to eight years in prison. The law does not differentiate between Ukrainian and foreign reporters.

READ MORE: Zelenskyy gets $1B more weaponry after desperate appeal for US help

Luhansk referendum 

Russia's attack on Ukraine, now in its 32nd day, has stalled in many areas. Its aim to quickly encircle the capital, Kiev, and force its surrender has faltered against staunch Ukrainian resistance — bolstered by weapons from the US and other Western allies.

Moscow claims its focus is on wresting the entire eastern Donbas region, which has been partially controlled by Russia-backed separatists since 2014. 

A high-ranking Russian military official said on Friday that troops were being redirected to the east from other parts of the country.

The leader of one separatist-controlled area of Donbas said on Sunday that he wants to hold a vote on joining Russia, words that may indicate a shift in Russia's position. Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, said it plans to hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia "in the nearest time."

Russia has supported the separatist rebels in Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk since an insurgency erupted there shortly after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. In talks with Ukraine, Moscow has demanded Kiev acknowledge the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.

READ MORE: Russia could have joined NATO. But why didn't they do it?

Source: AP