Zelensky: Russia won’t achieve its goals with annexation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said Russia’s planned annexation of four regions of Ukraine won’t be “what the Kremlin hopes for.”
Russia plans to annex Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions on Friday, a major escalation in the seven-month war, after residents supposedly signed off on plans in Moscow-orchestrated referendums condemned by the West as a “sham.”
“Everyone in the world understands well what such an attempted annexation would actually mean,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. “It will not mean what the Kremlin hopes for.”
Zelensky said he spoke with leaders in Italy, Poland and France earlier in the day, adding to efforts by the U.S. and its allies to mobilize the international community to reject the Russian annexation attempt.
Russia is planning celebratory events in Moscow and the occupied territories in the coming days that would echo those held after the country’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. But Zelensky vowed the Kremlin will not hold further annexed regions.
“Now I repeat for everyone in this country: Russia will not get a new territory of Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “Russia will annex itself to the catastrophe that it has brought to the occupied territory of our country.”
The annexation would come days after Russian President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 reservists and threatened the West with nuclear weapons, claiming the threat is “not a bluff.”
The Kremlin has faced steep territorial losses in Ukraine’s northeast from a counteroffensive that pushed Russian forces back to the border in some areas. Those gains led to increasing criticism against Putin from within Russia, and protests broke out following his partial mobilization announcement.
Amid the referendums in the occupied regions earlier this week, Zelensky called for Russia to be removed from the United Nations Security Council. As a permanent member of the powerful group, Russia maintains veto power on any substantive resolution.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the referendums as an attempt to mask a “land grab” in Ukraine on Thursday.
“The United States does not, and will never, recognize the legitimacy or outcome of these sham referenda or Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory,” Blinken said in a statement. “This spectacle conducted by Russia’s proxies is illegitimate and violates international law. It is an affront to the principles of international peace and security.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters on Thursday the annexation would mark a “dangerous escalation,” Reuters reported.
“Any decision by Russia to go forwards will further jeopardize the prospects for peace,” Guterres said.
Western officials have also raised concerns after the two Nord Stream pipelines, which run from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, began leaking early this week after European seismic stations recorded explosions.
U.S. and European officials have characterized the leaks as apparent sabotage, but the U.S. has stopped short of directly blaming Russia.