Russia has declared Donbas an "unconditional priority", and other areas in Ukraine have decided their future

The liberation of Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts) in eastern Ukraine is an “unconditional priority” for Moscow, but the rest of the country must decide for itself.

This was announced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with French television TF1.

The conversation with Lavrov was broadcast while Russia was advancing in Donbas, and this morning alone it reported hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen killed in a day (information from the two countries armed forces cannot be confirmed during the war). Moscow announced last week that it considers it possible to soon take full control of the Luhansk region, whose largest city, Severodonetsk, is the center of battles with Ukrainian forces. for Moscow, but the rest of the country must decide its future.

This was announced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with French television TF1.

The conversation with Lavrov was broadcast while Russia was advancing in Donbas, and this morning alone it reported hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen killed in a day (information from the two countries armed forces cannot be confirmed during the war). Moscow announced last week that it plans to take full control of the Luhansk region soon, whose largest city, Severodonetsk, is the center of battles with Ukrainian forces.

Lavrov also reiterated to those familiar with Moscow that the purpose of the invasion was for the “Kyiv regime” to stop killing civilians in both areas.

The separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions announced in 2014 the creation of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in parts of the two administrative units controlled by them. Two days before the start of the war, Russia recognized its independence. According to Lavrov, it cannot be an “annexation” of the “republics”, whose leaders in recent months have allowed a referendum to “join” Russia.

The rest of the territory, where people live who do not want to sever ties with Russia, will decide the population of these areas.
– Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

“I do not think they will be happy to return to the power of the neo-Nazi regime, which has proved its full Russophobic nature,” Lavrov said, hypothesizing the attitude of Ukrainians in the occupied territories towards the government in Kyiv. “People have to decide for themselves.”

Russia currently holds vast territories in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions (on the shores of the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov) to the south and the Kharkiv region to the northeast. The “unconditional priority” Lavrov speaks of is full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. For other parts of Ukraine in recent months, there have been allegations that the creation of “people’s republics” on the model of the DPR and LPR or joining Russia (de facto annexation on the model of Crimea) is being prepared. Yesterday, the deputy head of Russia’s elected Kherson administration, Kirill Stremousov, said plans would depend on the course of hostilities, but admitted that concrete steps would not be taken until next year.

Lavrov did not go into details, but the annexation of Crimea in 2014 used the argument that a referendum was held, which most countries do not recognize and in which the people of the peninsula did not have the opportunity to choose to maintain the status quo.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that his country would not be able to retake the entire territory by force.

The operation (as Russia calls the war that began) in Ukraine was “inevitable” because Moscow had long tried to engage the West to respond to its security concerns, but in vain, Lavrov said. He effectively confirmed the deaths of civilians (“yes, people are dying”), but insisted that the Russian military has been ordered to avoid all attacks and strikes on civilian infrastructure.

Lavrov also dismissed claims that President Vladimir Putin may be suffering from the disease after such allegations surfaced in various media outlets. According to him, there is no way for a “sane” person to admit signs of a problem with Putin, which appeared every day, one could listen to and read his speeches.

Zelensky acknowledged that Ukraine could not regain its entire territory by force

Conditions in Donbas are “indescribably difficult” as Russia tries to take control of the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and Kyiv realizes it cannot reclaim everything occupied by Moscow militarily.

This was announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a televised address.

He expressed confidence that the lands taken over by the February 24 invasion would be recaptured, but that did not seem to be the case.

Zelensky refers to the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014 and the pro-Russian separatist-held parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the same year, which they called the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic”.

The so-called Minsk Agreements were signed for them, which provided the way for the “republics” to remain in Ukraine, but Russia effectively annulled the agreements after recognizing the “republics” as independent and an important goal of the invasion in the last two years. months and to take over the adjacent areas.

The defense held back with great effort in parts of Donbas, including Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

It is indescribably difficult there. And thank you to all those who are resisting this attack.
– Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

The president expressed hope that the allies would still provide enough weapons and that “good news” was expected in the coming days.

Calls for negotiations

The progress of Russian forces in Donbas coincides with a moment when Western officials reiterate their strong support for Russia-Ukraine talks at the highest level. Recent leaders of France and Germany have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold “direct (and) serious talks”, although the Kremlin did not even mention such a possibility.

Zelenski said earlier that he was not burning with desire for negotiations, but they would probably be needed to end the conflict.

Earlier, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency Mykhailo Podoliak said talks with Russia were possible only after the withdrawal of Russian troops. Only this would lead to a “real” dialogue; otherwise, negotiations are conducted by a separate “delegation” on the front line.

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