Zelensky Says Won’t Negotiate with Putin After Ukraine Regions Vote to Join Russia
By Staff, Agencies
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky claims his country will have nothing to negotiate about with Russia after four Ukrainian regions voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Russian Federation.
The referendums have been held in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as well as the southern region of Kherson, and the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia over the past five days.
The regional officials there said huge majorities have voted in favor of integration into Russia, Reuters reported.
The plebiscites harked back to a similar vote held in 2014, during which Ukraine's Crimea peninsula voted to join Russia.
According to the officials, 99.23 of the voters in Donetsk, 98.42 percent in Luhansk, 87.05 percent in Kherson, and around 93 percent of residents in Zaporizhzhia have approved of their regions' integration into Russia.
Kiev and its Western allies, though, describe the votes as “sham”.
"Russia's recognition of the pseudo-referendums as 'normal', implementation of the so-called Crimean scenario, and yet another attempt to annex Ukrainian territory means that there is nothing to talk about with [the] current Russian president," Zelensky alleged during a video message at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
"In front of the eyes of the whole world, Russia is conducting an outright farce called a referendum on the occupied territory of Ukraine," he claimed.
Speaking on state television, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the votes had been designed to protect the regions' ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers from persecution at the hands of the Ukrainian regime.
"Saving people in all the territories where this referendum is being held is... the focus of attention of our entire society and country," Putin said.
The votes were held amid a military operation, which Russia has been conducting in Ukraine since February.
Russia began the operation in favor of Donetsk and Luhansk's pro-Russian population, who, according to Putin, had been “suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime” for years on end.
Also on Tuesday, a senior Russian official said Moscow would not shy away from using nuclear weapons in pre-determined cases and if it is pushed beyond its limits.
"Let's imagine that Russia is forced to use the most fearsome weapon against the Ukrainian regime which had committed a large-scale act of aggression that is dangerous for the very existence of our state," Dimitry Medvedev, former Russian president, said in a post on Telegram.
He went on to say that the NATO military alliance would not directly enter the Ukraine war even in the case of such a scenario.
"I believe that NATO would not directly interfere in the conflict even in this scenario," said Medvedev, who is the current deputy chairman of the country's Security Council.
"The demagogues across the ocean and in Europe are not going to die in a nuclear apocalypse."