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22 Feb, 2022 23:17

Zelensky unveils response to Donbass recognition

The Ukrainian president called for peace talks, no general mobilization and a tax holiday, after Russia recognized the Donbass republics
Zelensky unveils response to Donbass recognition

Kiev is open to bilateral and multilateral talks to resolve the current crisis, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said, announcing a set of measures to respond to Russia’s recognition of two breakaway Donbass republics. The Ukrainian leader noted that he would hold off on general mobilization for now.  

“For us, there is no alternative to ending the war,” Zelensky said in a televised address on Tuesday evening. “I am ready to do this either in a bilateral format or with the participation of other leaders.”

An initiative already underway would involve permanent members of the UN Security Council – including Russia – as well as Turkey and Germany, the Ukrainian president noted. 

“Today there is no need for general mobilization,” Zelensky said, addressing the topic of defense and security. Instead, he has ordered the call-up of the operational reserve, for a limited time period, in order to increase the readiness of the Ukrainian Army. Exercises of the “territorial defense” forces will also take place sometime in the near future.

To support the military, Ukraine needs a strong economy, Zelensky argued, announcing “a program of economic patriotism.” The idea is to encourage manufacturing and other industries to stay in Ukrainian territory by reducing taxes and scaling back inspections. To reduce the price of gas at the pump, Kiev will lower fuel tax.

“Our goal is to gain economic independence, especially in energy,” the president said.

To further economic independence, Zelensky said he would meet on Wednesday with representatives of Ukraine’s top 50 corporations, who he said “must remain” on the territory protected by the Ukrainian military.

Zelensky called for all political parties to give up their ambitions “for the sake of Ukraine” and join some sort of unity government. “Today, all politicians and parties are of the same color – blue and yellow,” he said, referring to the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The president thanked outside powers for supporting Kiev, starting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and followed by US President Joe Biden, British PM Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Zelensky’s speech comes after Russia on Monday recognized the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states, citing Kiev’s purported refusal to implement its obligations under the Minsk peace process. While Putin stopped short of revealing if any Russian troops have already been sent to the republics, the Kremlin did specify they were recognized within their boundaries as Ukrainian regions. A significant portion of both Donetsk and Lugansk regions is currently still under Kiev’s control.

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