World leaders slam Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and referendum plans

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© Reuters. Vehicles drive past billboards on the street, including signs displaying pro-Russian slogans, during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Luhansk, Ukraine, on September 20, 2022. One of the billboards read: “The world is changing – the truth remains. Russian Army”. R

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Pavel Politick and Michelle Nichols

Kyiv/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as leaders of Moscow’s installation in four occupied Ukrainian regions announced their intention to join Russia in the coming days referendum. sky.

In a seemingly concerted move, pro-Russian figures announced referendums will be held from September 23 to 27 in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which account for roughly Ukraine’s 15% of the territory, an area comparable to Hungary.

“The Russians can do whatever they want. It won’t change anything,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said on Tuesday in response to a question from UN reporters as UN leaders arrived in Ukraine for a war-focused General Assembly meeting.

“Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to liberate them no matter what Russia says,” he added in a tweet.

French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters before the UN General Assembly in New York that it would be interesting if the referendum plan was “less tragic”.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine to root out dangerous nationalists and “denazify” the country. The war has killed thousands, destroyed cities and caused millions to flee their homes in the former Soviet republic.

German Chancellor Olaf Schultz has said that if Putin admits he cannot win the war, he will only abandon his “imperial ambitions” that could destroy Ukraine and Russia.

“This is why we will not accept any peace that Russia demands, and this is why Ukraine must be able to repel a Russian attack,” Scholz said in his first address to the UN General Assembly.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the meeting that the Security Council needs to be reformed as the credibility of the United Nations is threatened due to the invasion of Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a contempt for the philosophy and principles of the UN Charter … which should never be tolerated,” Kishida said.

reason to mobilize

Some pro-Kremlin figures see the occupied referendum as an ultimatum for the West to accept Russian territorial gains or go to all-out war with a nuclear-armed foe.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now a hawkish vice-chairman of Putin’s security council, said on social media: “The occupation of Russian territory is a criminal act that allows the use of all forces for self-defense.”

Redefining fighting in occupied territory as an attack on Russia could give Moscow a reason to mobilize its 2 million military reserves. Despite mounting losses, Moscow has so far resisted the move.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said Washington was aware of reports that Putin may be considering ordering a mobilization. That would not diminish Ukraine’s ability to repel Russian aggression, Sullivan said, adding that Washington “unequivocally” rejects any such referendum.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region, which was partially occupied by Moscow in 2014, as independent states. Ukraine and the West believe that all parts of Ukraine controlled by Russian forces are illegally occupied.

Russia now owns about 60 percent of Donetsk and seized almost all of Luhansk in July after a slow advance in months of heavy fighting.

Those gains are now under threat after Russian troops were driven out of the neighboring province of Kharkiv this month, losing control of most of the main supply lines on the Donetsk and Luhansk fronts.

‘noise’

“The situation on the front clearly shows that this initiative belongs to Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address released earlier Wednesday.

Speaking of the referendum, Zelensky added that Ukraine’s position had not changed because of “some noise” from Russia.

In Kherson, the regional capital the only major city Russia has so far fully occupied since the invasion, Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive.

In the south, Russia controls much of Zaporozhye, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The plant, operated by Ukrainian personnel, was damaged by bombing, fueling fears of a radioactive catastrophe.

Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom said power at the plant’s Unit 6, which was disrupted by shelling early Wednesday, required the activation of two backup generators for safety systems to keep fuel cooling pumps running.



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