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Only Ukraine must decide its own future, Polish president says

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Poland's President Andrzej Duda

Polish President Andrzej Duda has told Ukrainian lawmakers that only Ukraine must decide its own future.

On Sunday, Duda became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since February 24, when Russia commenced its ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The operation has since drawn waves of unprecedented sanctions from the United States and its European allies against Moscow, and large flow of advanced weapons to Kiev.

“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin's demands,” the Polish president said.

Duda, however, stressed that “Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future... nothing about you without you.” The comment received a standing ovation in the chamber.

“If Ukraine is sacrificed for... economic reasons or political ambitions - even a centimeter of its territory - it will be a huge blow not only for the Ukrainian nation, but for the entire Western world,” Duda emphasized.

He added that international community must demand that Russia completely pull out of Ukrainian territory.

Kiev has so far rejected any peace deal that would involve it giving up Ukrainian territory and has dismissed calls for a truce that would involve Russian forces remaining in the occupied territories.

Since the onset of war, Poland has positioned itself as one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, sheltering the largest number of Ukrainian refugees, nearly 3.5 million. Moreover, Warsaw has been a strong advocate of tough sanctions against Russia, strongly urging the European Union to accept Ukraine as a new member.

“I will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union,” Duda further said on Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of the operation in a declared goal of “demilitarizing” and "de-Nazifying" the European country. Moscow is now pushing for the complete control of the Donbas region, where pro-Russia forces held parts of breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk provinces even before the military offensive.

Russia pounds military targets in Ukraine's Donbas and Mykolaiv: Moscow

Separately on Sunday, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Major General Igor Konashenkov said that Russian forces with airstrikes and artillery in the east and the south had targeted Ukrainian command centers, troops and ammunition depots earlier in the day.

He noted that air-launched missiles hit three command points, 13 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, as well as four ammunition depots in the Donbas region.

Konashenkov added that Russian rockets hit a mobile anti-drone system near the settlement of Hannivka, some 100 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv city, the capital of a southern province with the same name.

Rockets “and artillery hit 583 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, 41 control points, 76 artillery and mortar units in firing positions, including three Grad batteries, as well as a Bukovel Ukrainian electronic warfare station near the settlement of Hannivka, Mykolaiv region,” he further said.

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