Head of US-led military bloc vows to step up aid to Kyiv, suggesting Western weapons are the only way to resolve the conflict
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg criticized the upcoming referendums in Donbass and two regions of eastern Ukraine, calling them “fake” as citizens debate whether they want to officially rejoin Russia amid ongoing fighting.
With votes scheduled in the coming days for the two Donbass republics already recognized by Moscow – Donetsk and Lugansk – as well as the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, Stoltenberg insisted that Russia would use the “fake” referendums “to further aggravate the war”, claiming that they would have “no legitimacy and of course they don’t change anything.”
“Our response, NATO’s response, is to step up support,” he told CNN in an interview on Friday, adding “The best way to end this war is to further strengthen the Ukrainians on the battlefield so that they can, at some point, sit down and reach a solution acceptable to Ukraine and which preserves the Ukraine as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe.”
Although the exact result of the referendums has not yet been known, Moscow has said that if the regions vote to join the Russian Federation, it will consider attacks on these areas as attacks on its own territory and react accordingly. Moreover, the referendums follow the announcement that Russia will mobilize some 300,000 reservists, some of whom, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, would help control the 1,000 kilometer line of contact between Ukrainian forces and the territory under Russian control.
Russian lawmakers already voted to officially recognize the Donbas republics as independent states earlier this year, while neighboring regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye are still part of Ukraine, although both have seen a military presence Russian throughout the current conflict.
A number of Western leaders have already voiced their opposition to the upcoming votes, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Stoltenberg dismissing them as “fake referendums” this “cannot be accepted.” Washington, meanwhile, said it “never recognize Russia’s claims to allegedly annexed parts of Ukraine”, apparently including Crimea, which voted in its own referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in 2014.
West reacts to Donbas referendum plans
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