Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states is a “violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said early Tuesday in an address following a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council.
All responsibility for the consequences of the decision lies with Russia’s political leadership, said Zelensky, adding Russia in such a move is “legalizing” its troops in the eastern Donbas region, “which have been there since 2014.”
“A country that has supported the war for eight years cannot maintain peace, as it claims,” Zelensky said.
“The truth is with us,” he stressed, adding they “are not afraid” amid Russia’s recognition of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Noting that recognizing the separatists means unilaterally exiting the Minsk agreements and ignoring the decisions taken in the Normandy Format, Zelensky said the decision undermines peace efforts.
Recalling that a meeting of the UN Security Council and a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were also initiated by Ukraine, Zelensky said: “We insist on the full work of the OSCE SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) to prevent provocations and further escalation.”
He emphasized that an emergency meeting of the Normandy Four summit has also been initiated.
“We expect clear and effective steps of support from our partners. It is very important to see now who is our true friend and partner and who will continue to intimidate the Russian Federation with words,” he said.
Zelensky assured that Ukraine is committed to a political-diplomatic settlement and does not give in to provocations.
The move came after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states Monday and signed the relevant agreements with their separatist leaders in the Kremlin.
The US, UK, UN, Turkey and several European nations strongly condemned Moscow’s move.
Tensions have recently risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine, with reports of a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and the evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Western countries have accused Russia of amassing more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that it could be planning a military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and instead accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.