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22 Feb, 2022 03:33

Zelensky addresses nation after Russia’s Donbass move

Ukraine’s leader said he expects “clear support” from the West, but noted that there is no reason for panic just yet
Zelensky addresses nation after Russia’s Donbass move

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned Russia’s decision to recognize two separatist republics in the eastern Donbass region, calling the move a violation of his country’s sovereignty.

Speaking during a televised address on Tuesday morning, Zelensky accused Moscow of undermining diplomatic efforts to resolve fighting with separatists in the Donbass, saying President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk republics violated agreements negotiated in Minsk.

“Ukraine unequivocally qualifies the recent actions of the Russian Federation as a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state,” he said. “All responsibility for the consequences of these decisions rests with Russia's political leadership.”

Late on Monday, the Russian president said his government would “immediately” recognize the two republics – created in the wake of Ukraine’s 2014 EuroMaidan coup – and ordered the Russian military to enter the newly recognized republics as a peacekeeping force.

Despite months of predictions of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine from Western leaders, Zelensky told citizens that there was “no reason for you not to sleep tonight.”

“We can clearly distinguish between the provocations and the offensive of the aggressor's troops. Truth is on our side. And we will never hide the truth from you. As soon as we see a change in the situation, as soon as we see an increase in risks – you will know all this,” Zelensky said, adding that “there is no reason for chaotic action.”

Putin’s decision to recognize the republics comes as the forces loyal to the breakaway republics and Kiev’s military accused each other of heavy shelling across the contact lines. The flare-up triggered a mass evacuation of Donbass residents to nearby Russian territories across the border.

Russia’s action in the Donbass was earlier condemned by the United States, by the UN secretary-general, the NATO military alliance, and the European Union, which immediately vowed to impose retaliatory sanctions.

Though Zelensky said Ukraine is “not afraid” of Moscow, he nonetheless called for “clear and effective” support from its allies, with his administration calling for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on the matter.