Ukraine urged its backers Wednesday to make clear to Russia that “its attempts of annexation, blackmail and ultimatums” will only bring more support to the Ukrainian side in the conflict that began with the February invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.
“Ukraine calls on the EU, NATO and the Group of Seven to immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing new tough sanctions, and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine, including by providing us with tanks, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, long-range artillery, anti-aircraft and missile defense equipment,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The appeal came as the Russia-installed leaders in Luhansk and Kherson appealed Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex those territories based on what they said was the support of residents.
Russia-installed officials said 93% of ballots cast during the five days of voting in Zaporizhzhia supported annexation, along with with 87% in Kherson, 98% in Luhansk and 99% in Donetsk. Together, the regions make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
Ukraine, the United States and other Western countries have denounced the referendums as illegal. International recognition is highly unlikely.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that Russia must be isolated internationally for its sham referendums in his country.
“There is only one way to stop this all,” he said by video. “First, it is the complete isolation of Russia in response to everything it does.”
More sanctions should be imposed on Moscow, he said, and it should be deprived of its veto at the U.N. Security Council and suspended from all international institutions.
“The annexation of the captured territories … is the most brutal violation of the U.N. Charter,” the Ukrainian president said. “This is an attempt to steal the territory of another state. This is an attempt to erase the norms of international law.”
If Moscow annexes these territories, Zelenskyy said, it “will mean that there is nothing to talk about with the president of Russia.”
U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told council members that the referendums are not a “genuine expression of the popular will.”
“Unilateral actions aimed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the attempted acquisition by force by one state of another state’s territory, while claiming to represent the will of the people, cannot be regarded as legal under international law,” she said.
“Now, Kyiv is being rejected not only by the people of Crimea and Donbas, but Kherson and Zaporoizhzhia regions,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told council members. “This process is going to continue if Kyiv does not recognize its mistake and its strategic errors and doesn’t start to be guided by the interests of its own people, and not blindly carry out the will of those people who are playing them.”
There are concerns in Ukraine and the West that should the territories be annexed, Russian President Vladimir Putin would claim any attempt by Ukrainian military forces to recapture the land as an attack on Russia itself.
The United States and Albania have circulated a draft resolution to Security Council members condemning the referendums, calling on countries not to recognize any altered status of Ukraine and compelling Russia to withdraw its troops from the country.
“If Russia chooses to shield itself from accountability here in the council, we will then look to the U.N. General Assembly to send an unmistakable message to Moscow,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “The world must stand together and defend the Charter of the United Nations.”
She told reporters after the meeting that she hopes to seek a vote in the Security Council either late this week or early next week.
“We call on all U.N. members — everyone for whom the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders have meaning — to oppose Russia’s actions, condemn the referendums and their anticipated results, and never recognize any attempt to steal Ukrainian land through violence and terror,” Albanian Ambassador Ferit Hoxha said.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.