Senior officials in Kiev have dismissed as irrelevant plans for a number of current and former Ukrainian regions to hold referendums on whether to join Russia.
Andrey Yermak, President Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff, described the proposed votes as “blackmail” by Moscow.
“This is what fear of defeat looks like. The enemy is afraid and uses primitive manipulations,” he said in a post on social media on Tuesday.
Yermak added that “Ukraine will solve the Russian question,” insisting this could be done “only by force.”
Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba also downplayed news of the upcoming referendums, dismissing the move as a “sham.”
“Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he tweeted.
The condemnations and threats came in response to bids by the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as Ukraine’s Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, to hold referendums on the question of joining the Russian Federation. The votes could take place as early as this week.
READ MORE: Kiev threatens pro-Russia Ukrainians with jail terms
Kiev previously threatened any person who takes part in such a plebiscite with criminal prosecution. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said participants could be sent to prison for up to 12 years.
You can share this story on social media: