“Military action could have been avoided if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could be forced to promise that his country would not join NATO, or forced to grant a high degree of autonomy to two enclaves in the east,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

The Japanese prime minister noted that it would be very difficult to achieve a change in Zelensky's position. 

Abe suggested that the Ukrainian leader could be influenced by his US colleague Joe Biden.

“But, Zelensky, of course, would have refused,” the politician concluded.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on the air of the Italian channel Rai 1 said that Ukraine does not recognize the Russian ownership of Crimea and the autonomy of the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics.

On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees on Russia's recognition of the independence of the LNR and the DNR.

Crimea became a Russian region after a referendum held there in March 2014: the majority of residents voted for reunification with Russia.