Ukraine urges int’l talks over Russia’s decision

Kiev, Feb 22 (IANS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that Kiev has been urging the international community to hold emergency talks over Russia’s decision on the independent status of the rebel regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has been calling for an emergency summit of the Normandy Format, a meeting of the UN Security Council, and a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to address the issue, Zelensky said in a video address to the nation published on Facebook.
“The latest actions of the Russian Federation are a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state. Russia is solely responsible for the consequences of such decisions,” Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying.
That Moscow recognised the regions as independent entities reflected “Russia’s unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk agreements and ignoring the decisions of the Normandy Four”, Zelensky said.
The Normandy Format, established in 2014, is a diplomatic group of senior representatives from Ukraine, Germany, Russia and France formed to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Minsk agreements, reached in September 2014 and February 2015, outline the steps needed to end the conflict between the Ukrainian government troops and local armed groups in Donbas region which comprises Donetsk and Luhansk.
Emphasising that Kiev is committed to a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis, he said: “we will not give anything to anyone, and we are sure of that.”
On Monday night, Putin inked the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between Russia and “the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR)” and “the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)” with the heads of the two Moscow-backed separatist regions, Xinhua news agency quoted a Kremlin statement as saying.
“I consider it necessary to make a long overdue decision — to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the DPR and the LPR,” Putin said in an hour-long televised address to the nation.
Following the signing of the decree, Putin ordered more troops to perform “peacekeeping functions” in the conflict-hit eastern region, raising fears that they could soon cross the border into Kiev.
Currently, Ukraine is being surrounded by more than 150,000 Russian troops on its borders.
In his immediate response to Putin’s announcement, Zelensky had declared that “we are not afraid” and “will not give anything away to anyone”.
In 2014 soon after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk proclaimed their independence.
Peace agreements were signed during 2014-15, but the conflict remained which led to hundreds of thousands of people leave the regions.
An estimated 14,000 people have died since 2014.

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