Ukraine’s Zelenskiy rules out talks if Russia holds referendums

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not seen) as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues on July 11, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

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Aug 7 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that there could be no talks with Ukraine or its international allies if Russia held a referendum in the occupied territories of his country to join Russia.

Russian forces and their separatist allies now hold large swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region and the south after the Kremlin launched a “special military operation” in its neighborhood. Officials in both the sectors have expressed the possibility of holding a referendum.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said that Kyiv is steadfast in its position of not giving any territory to Russia.

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“The position of our country remains the same as it has always been. We will not give up anything of ours,” Zelensky said.

“If the occupiers go ahead with the pseudo-referendum, they will cut off for themselves any opportunity for dialogue with Ukraine and the free world, which the Russian side will clearly need at some point.”

Russian and Ukrainian officials held several sessions of talks shortly after Russian forces launched an invasion of Ukraine in February.

But little progress has been made and no meetings have been held since late March, with each side blaming the other for ceasing contact.

Russian forces have seized much of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, and officials in charge have suggested a referendum on joining Russia could be held in the coming weeks or months.

In Donbass, Russian proxies seized part of the territory in 2014, held independence referendums and declared “people’s republics” in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Kremlin recognized the republic on the eve of the February invasion.

The governor of Luhansk region – almost entirely under Russian control for weeks – suggested over the weekend that Russia was preparing a new referendum in the newly captured area and offering benefits to residents to take part.

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Reporting by Ronald Popesky; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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