EU denounces Ukrainian separatists' call for help from Russia

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman inspects the damage after shelling on the front line with Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk, on Feb 19, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Ukrainian rebels' request for military assistance from Moscow represents an "additional step against" the country's sovereignty, the European Union said on Wednesday (Feb 23).

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin said the heads of the separatist republics had requested "help" to "repel Ukraine's aggression", a move that opens the door for massed Russian troops to move in.

"The request for assistance by Moscow from the so-called DPR/LPR (Donetsk and Luhansk) breakaway regions announces a very dangerous additional step against Ukraine's sovereignty that would put thousands of lives at risk," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"The EU strongly urges Russia to refrain from any further escalatory actions," he tweeted.

The rebels had written letters to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Their appeals came after Putin recognised the separatist regions' independence and signed friendship treaties that included defence deals.

Washington and Britain say Russia's force is poised to strike Ukraine and trigger the most serious war in Europe for decades, but Putin says he is open to negotiation - within limits.

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday evening in Brussels for a summit to discuss the "latest developments" following Moscow's recognition of the separatist Ukrainian regions and the bloc's adoption of economic sanctions.

The meeting will also discuss ways to "hold Russia accountable" and support Ukraine.

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