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Zelenskiy: talk of elections in wartime irresponsible

Talk of holding an election in Ukraine during wartime is "utterly irresponsible" and the focus must be on fighting Russia, President Vladimir Zelenskiy says.



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has dismissed as irresponsible any notion of holding an election in wartime as talks have heated up recently whether Kyiv should be voting when under Russia's assault.


Calling for unity to avoid pointless political discussion, Zelenskiy's comments appear to rule out any suggestion Ukraine should hold a vote to demonstrate its democratic credentials remain in good order.


While the martial law declared in the country at the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 prohibits authorities from holding elections, there has been increased debate at home and abroad about a potential poll in March 2024.


In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said it was critical to concentrate on the military challenges facing Ukraine as it tries to push out Russian forces occupying nearly one-fifth of its land more than 20 months after launching their invasion.


"We all understand that now, in wartime, when there are many challenges, it is utterly irresponsible to engage in topics related to an election in such a frivolous manner," he said on Monday.


"We need to recognise that this is a time for defence, a time for battle, upon which the fate of the state and its people depend ... I believe that elections are not appropriate at this time."


In peacetime, Ukraine would had held parliamentary elections in October and the first round of presidential vote in early spring 2024.


US Republican senator Lindsey Graham and some other Western officials have urged Kyiv to stage an election to show it can hold free and fair vote while at war.


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at the weekend the president was weighing the pros and cons of a wartime poll.


Zelenskiy himself had previously said he would be prepared to hold the vote if Ukraine secured the assistance it needed - and if elections were deemed necessary.


While Zelenskiy's ratings soared after the start of the Russian invasion, there have growing signs of impatience with the Ukrainian leader among some of Kyiv's Western allies.


There is also the appearance of a rift in the country's leadership after the Ukraine's top commander signalled the war had come to a static stage, an interpretation which Zelenskiy vehemently denied.


On Monday, Zelenskiy said that if it proved necessary to end divisive talk, there were state structures "capable of making those decisions and providing all the necessary answers to society".


He also said it was vital the state's institutions were fully behind the war effort "and not on paving stones or street repairs".

Ukraine must focus "far more on defence ... particularly at the regional level", the president says.


The country, he said, had to concentrate "far more on defence ... particularly at the regional level", and called for efforts to ensure there was no recurrence of a Russian strike at the weekend on a Ukrainian brigade in which military officials said 19 soldiers were killed.


Zelenskiy had earlier said the attack in southern Zaporizhzhia region was "a tragedy that could have been avoided".


Ukrainian media reported the soldiers were killed during an awards ceremony on Friday, although full circumstances remained unclear.


Elsewhere, Ukraine's push for European Union membership continues, with the EU executive to recommend the bloc open membership negotiations with Kyiv once it meets outstanding conditions, two EU officials said.


In Kyiv, a senior government official said Ukraine expected the European Commission on Wednesday to deliver a "positive" appraisal of its membership bid.


The commission will assess Ukraine across seven reform areas in a report that will inform a key decision in December at an EU summit on whether to start formal membership negotiations with Kyiv.


Both EU officials said the recommendations meant formal negotiations with Kyiv - and another EU candidate Moldova - could start next year.


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