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Polish President: Only Ukraine Should Decide Its Future

Poland's President Andrzej Duda addresses lawmakers during a session of the Ukrainian parliament, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 22, 2022. ( Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)
Poland's President Andrzej Duda addresses lawmakers during a session of the Ukrainian parliament, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 22, 2022. ( Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

Polish President Andrzej Duda addressed the Ukrainian parliament Sunday, rebuffing suggestions that Kyiv should cede part of its territory to Russia to end Moscow’s three-month invasion.

"Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin's demands,” Duda told Ukrainian lawmakers, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future... nothing about you without you," he added, to a standing ovation in the chamber.

Duda, the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to parliament since Russia's February 24 invasion, said the international community must demand that Moscow completely withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

"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 said.

The Polish leader, whose country has accepted more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, said he “will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union.”

As Duda spoke, more fighting erupted in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region after Russia declared that it had full control of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol. Russia launched artillery and missile attacks in Ukraine's industrial heartland, where Russia-backed separatists have clashed with Kyiv’s forces since Moscow’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Saturday night address to his nation that “the situation in Donbas is extremely difficult,” but that his country's ability to withstand nearly three months of full-scale war against Russia "is good news."

"Every day that our defenders take away from these offensive plans of Russia, disrupting them, is a concrete contribution to the approach of the main day. The desired day that we are all looking forward to and fighting for: Victory Day," Zelenskyy said.

He said the 27-nation EU should consider Ukraine's desire to join the bloc as soon as possible within the context of Russia's invasion.

"I want to emphasize that our European integration path is not just about politics," Zelenskyy said. "It's about quality of life. And about the fact that Ukrainians perceive the values of life in the same way as the vast majority of Europeans."

Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine’s lead negotiator with Russia and an adviser to Zelenskyy, said there will be no cease-fire or concessions to Moscow.

Podolyak said, "The war will not stop (after concessions to Russia). It will just be put on pause for some time. They'll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large scale.”

Ukrainian forces said via Facebook that at least seven people had been killed in Donetsk in the previous 24 hours when Russians, using aircraft, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles, pummeled civilian structures and residential areas.

The Ukrainians said they had turned back nine attacks, destroying five tanks and 10 armored vehicles, according to the Facebook post.

In another development Saturday, Russia published a list of nearly 1,000 Americans who are permanently banned from entry into Russia because of their support for Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are among those on the list that includes members of the president’s Cabinet.

Concern for the treatment of fighters who surrendered to Russian forces after weeks of fighting at the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol increased Saturday when Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, said they would face tribunals.

Pushilin said 2,439 people were already in custody, including some foreign nationals.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that Ukraine would fight for the return of every soldier.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine that Mariupol was fully under Russian control.

The port city is the scene of the war's bloodiest siege, with Russian forces bombarding it for nearly three months. Much of Mariupol has been reduced to rubble, and more than 20,000 civilians are feared dead.

Mariupol’s capture, Russia’s most significant conquest of the war, adds to Moscow’s goal of a land route from Russia to the Crimea and perhaps beyond.

Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special operations base near Odesa, Ukraine's main Black Sea port, Saturday, as well as a significant cache of Western-supplied weapons in northern Ukraine's Zhytomyr region, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.