Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint press conference with his Estonian counterpart (not pictured) following their talks in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 22, 2022. (Photo by AFP)
The president of Ukraine says he is considering breaking off relations with Russia, in response to President Vladimir Putinís recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
The Russian president signed a decree recognizing Lugansk and Donetsk regions as independent republics and instructed Russiaís Defense Ministry to deploy peacekeeping troops to the two regions on Monday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he received on Tuesday "a request from the foreign ministry to examine the question of breaking off relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation."
"I will now, immediately after this press conference, examine and work on this issue," he said at a joint media appearance with Estonian President Alar Karis.
Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbass, were turned into self-proclaimed republics by its ethnic Russian residents in 2014. That led to a bloody conflict between the government forces and the residents.
Ukraine, as well as the European Union and the United States, claim Russia has a hand in the conflict in the Donbass, which has killed more than 14,000 people so far. Moscow denies the allegation.
Zelenskiy also described Russiaís move as the first step to conduct a "military aggression against Ukraine."
"We believe that with this decision, Russia is creating the legal basis for further military aggression against Ukraine, thus violating all possible international obligations," the Ukrainian president said.
Zelenskiy has also demanded a swift and punishing economic response from the West, which must include "the complete stop of the Nord Stream 2" project that takes Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
The pipeline has already been a source of tensions between Russia and the West.
In separate remarks, Ukraineís defense minister called on the countryís troops to be ready for war with Russia. He warned the troops to be ready to face "hardship" ahead but claimed that Kiev would have a "certain victory" in the face of what he called the Russian threat.
"There will be hardship. There will be losses. We will have to endure pain, overcome fear and despair,"Oleksiy Reznikov said in a message posted on the ministryís website.
Ukraine, its ally the United States, and NATO members have been accusing Russia of planning to invade Ukraine by amassing over 150,000 troops and armaments near the border with the former Soviet Union country.
Moscow has vehemently rejected the allegation, saying the military build-up is defensive in nature, slamming NATO over its increased military activity near Russian borders.