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Official: Ukraine will fight for land Russia is likely to annex

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine is determined to regain territory that Russia is likely to annex following a vote organized in the occupied areas and takes seriously Moscow’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the war with its neighbor, said an adviser to the Ukrainian president on Wednesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak insisted that nothing would change on the battlefield if Russia decided to incorporate four southern and eastern regions. Ukraine in the next few days, as is generally expected.

“We will liberate our territory by military means,” Podolyak said. “And for us, our actions depend not so much on what the Russian Federation thinks or wants, but on the military capabilities that Ukraine has.”

Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced the Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” that ended Tuesday as illegal and a sham, noting that many residents remain displaced by the seven-month war. They also said Moscow-based local officials announced the measures with suspiciously high margins after armed troops sometimes went door-to-door to collect ballots.

Pro-Russian officials from Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions said they would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to integrate their regions into Russia. Annexation would allow Moscow to treat Ukrainian areas as official Russian territory and defend them accordingly.

Podolyak said it was vital that Ukraine regain all of its land seized by force. He called the goal important not only for his country but also for its European neighbours.

“Otherwise, Russia will feel it has the right to blackmail the world, up the ante, escalate the conflict and see itself as the winner of what it will see as a painful war against Europe. “, did he declare. “In order to ensure the stability of Europe as a whole…we must liberate our territory in its entirety. This is the only guarantee for the further development of the war.

Russian officials have increasingly threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend their national interests – a threshold that has not been crossed in wartime for more than seven decades.

Ukraine does not regard these warnings as bluster.

“Of course Ukraine takes this seriously, because we understand what kind of country we are dealing with,” Podolyak said.

Russia’s threats are not just of concern to Ukraine, he said, as a preemptive nuclear strike from Moscow could set a precedent for other countries around the world.

“Once nuclear weapons are used today in the 21st century, we will no longer close this Pandora’s box,” Podolyak said. “Because there are many unstable political regimes that will take advantage of this situation and start speculating on nuclear weapons and try to use it in some form or another because they think it is possible to do so.”

Podolyak, who was part of Ukraine’s negotiating team in previous rounds of peace talks, harbored dim hopes of meaningful talks in the near future.

He expressed doubts about Moscow’s willingness to engage in good faith and said Russian officials were just buying time to regroup and strengthen their position on the battlefield.

“There is no positive development, no negotiation process,” Podolyak said. “Russia constantly talks about negotiations in an ultimatum style but only speaks for an outside audience, because it wants to ensure pressure on Ukraine from our partners saying they are ready to conduct negotiations”.


Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine


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