Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a fresh appeal to Moscow on Thursday morning for dialogue to resolve the simmering crisis in the region.
In a video posted on Telegram in which he spoke in both Ukrainian and his native Russian language, Zelensky claimed that Russia has approved an offensive against Ukraine.
He asserted that Ukraine does not and will not pose a threat to Russia and that it does not want any type of war with Moscow, including a cold or “hot” war, or a hybrid war.
“Today, I requested a phone conversation with the president of the Russian Federation. The result is silence. However, the silence must be in Donbas,” Zelensky said.
On Wednesday, Kiev requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the topic of the Donbass, where on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two breakaway republics from Ukraine. The Russophone-majority region, situated between Ukraine and Russia, has been the site of eight years of war after the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics declared independence from Kiev, following an attempt to reduce the status of the Russian language as a national language of Ukraine.
Putin said the Minsk Protocol for peace in the region, agreed to in 2015 by Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), had failed, thanks to Kiev’s intransigence. Russia agreed in the deal that the Donbass was a part of Ukraine, but without a path to peace, Putin said he felt compelled to intervene and stop the fighting, dispatching peacekeepers to the republics following their recognition. Ukrainian Army shelling has grown increasingly intense in recent days, with DPR head Denis Pushilin organizing the evacuation of 700,000 residents into western Russia.
On Thursday, Pushilin’s government said Ukraine was escalating the situation against the will of the Donbass republics.
“No one wants war, especially us, because we know what it is,” Edward Basurin, a spokesperson for the DPR People’s Militia, told RIA Novosti. “Therefore, we will try, as we said, [to leave Ukraine] by peaceful means. But everything can change.”
Zelensky was elected in 2019 on a platform of peace in the Donbass, a change of policy from five years of war. On Tuesday, an opposition party in the Verkhovna Rada called for Zelensky’s resignation, saying he has failed in his promise and lost the Donbass.
The US, Australia and European Union introduced new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday following Putin’s decision, claiming the move was the beginning of the invasion they had been claiming for months was imminent.
Moscow has denied any intent to invade Ukraine, but told NATO that its security concerns must be taken into account in the alliance’s behavior. A proposal introduced by the Kremlin in December called for NATO to end its eastward expansion and write off Ukraine as a potential future member, as well as cease stationing offensive weapons along its so-called “eastern frontier,” a ring of former Soviet republics and former Soviet allies who joined NATO in the last 30 years, after socialism was overthrown in Central and Eastern Europe.
So far, NATO has rejected the membership question, which Moscow considers primary.