Ukraine cuts ties with Syria after it recognises separatist republics as independent

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemns the move and issues sanctions warning to Damascus

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, centre right, in talks with a Russian delegation led by Duma member Dmitry Sablin, centre left, in Damascus on June 14. Syria has recognised two Moscow-backed separatist states in Ukraine as independent. AP
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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he has cut diplomatic ties with Syria after it recognised the independence of two Russian-backed separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

The breakaway self-declared people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Moscow recognised as independent in February, are in the Donbas region, an area at the centre of Russia's invasion.

Syria on Wednesday became the first country after Russia to recognise the separatist regions as independent. It said contacts will be established to set up diplomatic relations.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry announcement came days after President Bashar Al Assad met a joint delegation from both regions in Damascus.

"There will no longer be relations between Ukraine and Syria," Mr Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

The sanctions pressure against Syria "will be even greater", he said.

He described the move by Damascus as a "worthless story".

The government of Mr Al Assad has since 2015 been heavily backed by Russia in the Syrian civil war.

In 2018, Georgia cut ties with Syria after it recognised the Russia-backed breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognised as part of Georgia, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but Russia and a handful of other countries recognise their independence.

Earlier this month, Russia claimed to have taken control of 97 per cent of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine’s Donbas, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s forces hold nearly all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies about half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts.

Syria is a strong ally of Russia, which joined the conflict in Syria in September 2015 and helped to tip the balance of power in favour of Mr Al Assad.

After abandoning its bungled attempt to storm Ukraine capital Kyiv two months ago, Russia declared that taking the entire Donbas is its main objective. Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas since 2014, and the region has borne the brunt of the Russian onslaught in recent weeks.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 1:12 PM