Ukraine may break off diplomatic ties with Russia, president says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also urged Ukraine's allies not to wait for a further escalation to impose sanctions. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV (REUTERS) - Ukraine may break off diplomatic relations with Russia after Moscow decided to recognise two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said at a briefing on Tuesday (Feb 22).

Speaking alongside his Estonian counterpart, Mr Zelenskiy said he was weighing a request from his foreign ministry to break off ties.

He also urged Ukraine's allies not to wait for a further escalation to impose sanctions, which he said should include shutting down the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline, awaiting approval to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

"I've received a request from the foreign ministry. I will consider the issue of severing diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Immediately after our press conference, I will consider this issue," Mr Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it had recalled a senior Ukrainian diplomat from Moscow for consultations.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, said it remained open to all diplomatic contact over Ukraine and that Kyiv cutting ties with Moscow would worsen an already tense situation.

“The Russian side remains open at all levels for diplomatic contacts... Everything depends on our opponents,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that a move by Kyiv to cut its official ties with Moscow would be “an extremely undesirable scenario that would make everything even more difficult”.

Mr Putin's announcement on Monday, and his signing of a decree on the deployment of Russian troops to the two breakaway regions, drew international condemnation and immediate US sanctions, with President Joe Biden signing an executive order to halt US business activity in the breakaway regions.

The United States and its European allies were set to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

Mr Zelenskiy, who in his nighttime address to the nation accused Russia of destroying peace efforts, played down the prospect of a large-scale conflict with Russia but said he was prepared to introduce martial law if that happened.

"As for martial law... this question is clear to us. We believe that there will be no war, there will be no powerful (war) against Ukraine and there will be no wide escalation by the Russian Federation. If there is a (wide escalation), then martial law will be introduced," he said.

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