Ukraine could sever ties with Russia – Zelensky
The Ukrainian government could sever all diplomatic relations with Moscow, the country's president, Volodymyr Zelesnky, has announced after his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin formally recognized the independence of two breakaway republics in the Donbass region.
On Tuesday, Zelensky told journalists he had received a request from his Foreign Ministry to cut ties with Russia, and said that he was considering it. "Immediately after our press conference, I will contemplate this issue and not just it, but also on our practical steps regarding the escalation by Russia," he explained.
The Ukrainian leader accused Russia of engaging in "legal aggression that creates a foothold for further escalation." In a video he released after Putin's announcement, he also told Ukrainian citizens that the country's borders remain the same in spite of Russia's recognition of the Donetsk republics' independence.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded on Tuesday to Zelensky's warning that he might break off relations with Russia, saying that it has no desire to see diplomatic ties with Kiev cut off.
On Monday, Putin convened a meeting of high-level officials to discuss the question of recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR), after separatist leaders made a series of claims alleging aggression by Ukrainian government forces. Kiev officials have vehemently denied the accusations and said that they could be used as a pretext for a Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
Monday evening, Putin announced that he was formally recognizing the DPR and LPR as independent states, and he signed treaties of friendship and cooperation with the leaders of the newly acknowledged republics. The agreements were ratified by the Russian parliament and the DPR and LPR People's Councils on Tuesday.
Putin's decision was widely criticized by Western leaders, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg writing on Monday that it "undermines Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and could be an attempt to "stage a pretext to invade Ukraine once again."
Following the Kremlin's affirmation of their independence, Putin ordered the Russian armed forces to "secure the peace" in the newly recognized Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. Within hours, unconfirmed reports and videos emerged purporting to show Russian troops moving across the border. Moscow has not yet confirmed these claims but has said it has no plans to set up permanent military bases at present.