US vows ‘severe costs’ for those who support Russia’s referenda in Ukraine

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)
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (Photo by AP)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said that any individual or entity who supports the integration of eastern Ukrainian republics into Russia will face “severe” consequences.

Sullivan issued the threat after he met Andriy Yermak, head of the office of Ukraine’s president, in Istanbul on Sunday, according to a statement from the White House.

“Mr. Sullivan underscored the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He conveyed that the United States and its allies and partners will not be deterred by Russia’s flagrant violations of international law, including the United Nations Charter, and will impose severe costs on any individual, entity, or country that provides support to Russia’s purported annexation,” the statement said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree for the formal accession of four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation.

Presiding over a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of the four regions in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin announced that people in these regions are now considered Russian citizens as they have made their choice in referendums.

The Russian leader stressed that Ukraine has to respect the will of the people, vowing to defend the Russian land with all means.

Putin cited the “will of millions of people” shown by the referendums as the determining factor behind the move to join the territories as part of Russia.

The development came after people in the four regions overwhelmingly voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation in referendums.

The White House statement said that Sullivan and Yermak also discussed the ongoing situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which is under the control of Russian forces, and UN-brokered efforts to export food from Ukraine’s ports.

“Mr. Sullivan emphasized the United States is committed to supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their sovereignty and democracy, including via the $12 billion in additional assistance that President Biden recently signed into law,” the statement added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced last week that his country will file an expedited application to join NATO.

“We are de facto allies. This has already been achieved. De facto, we have already completed our path to NATO,” Zelensky said in his statement. “We trust each other, we help each other and we protect each other. This is what the Alliance is. De facto.”

However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday declined to commit to whether Ukraine’s application to join the US-led military alliance will be accepted, saying its bid to join “needs to be taken by consensus.”

Sullivan said on Friday that now is the wrong time to consider Kiev’s NATO membership.

“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” Sullivan told reporters.

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