KYIV, Feb 23 — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy yesterday said he was introducing the conscription of reservists for a special period but ruled out a general mobilisation after Russia announced it was moving troops into eastern Ukraine.
One of Europe’s worst security crises in decades was unfolding after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two areas of eastern Ukraine as independent. Both adjoin Russia and have been controlled by Russian-backed fighters since 2014.
Ukraine accused Russia of wrecking peace talks on ending an eight-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine and resisted Moscow’s demands it scrap its ambition to join the Nato alliance.
In a televised address Zelenskiy said he was still pursuing diplomatic ways out of the crisis and welcomed Turkey’s willingness to participate in multilateral talks, but said Ukraine would not cede any territory to Russia.
Addressing his country after a cross-party meeting in parliament, Zelenskiy announced a programme of “economic patriotism” that included incentivising local production and value added tax cuts on gasoline.
“There is no need for general mobilisation today. We need to promptly replenish the Ukrainian army and other military formations,” he said.
“As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I issued a decree on the conscription of reservists during a special period,” he said.
“We must increase the readiness of the Ukrainian army for all possible changes in the operational situation,” he said.
Zelenskiy has publicly criticised foreign embassies and Ukrainian businessmen for leaving Ukraine for security reasons, and renewed his call for companies to stay put.
“All of them must stay in Ukraine. Their enterprises are located on Ukrainian soil, which is protected by our military,” he said.
Ukraine and Western countries have long accused Russia of instigating the conflict in eastern Ukraine and sending troops and heavy weapons to prop up the separatists from 2014. Moscow had always denied doing so and demanded Kyiv hold direct talks with separatist leaders whose legitimacy Ukraine does not recognise.
“Yesterday the Russian Federation recognised the independence of quasi-entities in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.
“Today, it ratified the so-called “agreements” and gave permission to the president of Russia to use the armed forces abroad. That is in the Donbass. On the territory of Ukraine. ‘We are not there’ was replaced by the official ‘we are still here’”. — Reuters