Zelenskiy works the phone to rally support against Russia

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks on the phone with European Council President Charles Michel in the Donetsk region, Ukraine February 17, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought to rally international support for his country against Russia in a series of calls with foreign leaders on Wednesday as Moscow looked poised to annex a swath of Ukrainian territory.

Zelenskiy spoke to the leaders of countries including Britain, Canada, Germany and Turkey to press demands for more military aid and tougher sanctions on Moscow after what Kyiv and the West denounced as illegal sham referendums in four partially occupied provinces on Ukraine.

The United States said it was working with allies and partners to impose severe economic costs on Moscow, and the European Union's executive proposed new sanctions.

"We expect London’s leadership in reaction to Russian sham referenda as well. Defence and financial aid to Ukraine must be enhanced in response," Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter after speaking to British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

He told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau separately that the world must not bow to Russian "nuclear blackmail and added: "The aggressor must clearly understand all the consequences of his irresponsibility."

Zelenskiy thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara's condemnation of the so-called referendums, and added: "The world community must give the strongest possible response to Russia's actions."

In another call, Zelenskiy won a promise from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Berlin's financial, political and humanitarian support for Ukraine would not waver.

Scholz also said Germany would continue to back Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including weapons deliveries, a German government spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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