Ukrainian Zelenskyy rules out talks if Russia holds referenda

Ukrainian Zelenskyy rules out talks if Russia holds referenda

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not seen) as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues July 11, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Portal/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

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Aug 7 (Portal) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday there could be no talks with Ukraine or its international allies if Russia proceeds with referenda in occupied territories of his country on joining Russia.

Russian forces and their separatist allies now hold large tracts of land in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region and southern areas after launching what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” on their neighbor’s territory. Officials in both branches have raised the possibility of referendums.

In his late-night video address, Zelenskyy said Kiev was sticking to its position of not ceding any territory to Russia.

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“Our country’s position remains what it has always been. We will not give up anything that belongs to us,” said Zelenskyy.

“If the occupiers go down the path of pseudo-referendums, they will block any chance of talks with Ukraine and the free world, which the Russian side will certainly need at some point.”

Russian and Ukrainian officials held several talks shortly after Russian forces began invading Ukraine in February.

Little progress was made, however, and no meetings have taken place since late March, with each side blaming the other for halting contacts.

Russian forces hold most of the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, and senior officials have suggested a referendum on joining Russia could be held in the coming weeks or months.

In Donbass, Russian proxies seized large parts of the territory in 2014, held independence referendums and proclaimed “people’s republics” in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Kremlin recognized the republics on the eve of the February invasion.

The governor of the Luhansk region – which was almost entirely under Russian control for several weeks – hinted over the weekend that Russia was preparing to hold a new referendum in newly conquered territories and was offering residents benefits for taking part.

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Reporting by Ronald Popeski; Edited by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

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