Zelensky urges Donbas residents to evacuate, calls on US to legally recognize Russia as terrorist state

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged civilians remaining in the easternmost Donbas region of the country to leave as the most intense fighting with Russian forces continues there. 

Zelensky said in a statement on Saturday that hundreds of thousands of people remain in the area and refuse to leave but must for their own safety. He said people specifically leaving Donetsk, the province in the Donbas that Russia has focused on capturing since taking the other province of Luhansk earlier this month, will reduce the number of people that the Russian army can kill. 

“Therefore, if you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas,” the statement reads. “Please convince them that it is necessary to leave, especially if they are families with children. If you have the opportunity to help displaced people, do it.” 

Zelensky said the government is organizing for a mandatory evacuation from Donetsk, but people need to decide to leave. He said the Ukrainian government will provide full logistical and financial assistance. 

“We are not Russia. That is why every life is important for us. And we will use all available opportunities to save as many lives as possible and to limit Russian terror as much as possible,” he said. 

Zelensky also called on the world, and specifically the U.S. State Department, to recognize Russia as a terrorist state. He said it would not be just a political gesture but an “effective defense of the free world.” 

He said the recognition will cut various political and business ties that Russia has, making it difficult for the state to exist. He said the sooner the recognition is issued, the less evil Russia will be able to inflict. 

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. 

Zelensky said terror is Russia’s main weapon at this point in the war, and the main task for every Ukrainian and “defender of freedom and humanity in the world” is to isolate Russia and protect as many as possible from its attacks. 

Ukrainian officials warned earlier this month that Russia is preparing for another offensive, with the next target likely the city of Sloviansk, in the Donetsk province.