Putin annexed the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced The largest annexation of land in post-war Europe On Friday, he claimed nuclear-backed but shaky control over swathes of Ukraine even as his forces were about to suffer another setback on the battlefield.

“This is the will of millions of people,” Putin said in a speech at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin to welcome the four areas in defiance of international law. This represents a new political escalation of the seven-month war after Moscow called up military reservists and renewed threats that it might resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The United States, Ukraine and other countries condemned this as an illegal land grab, and promised to respond with sanctions while Kyiv vowed to continue fighting to regain its occupied lands. The annexation was also overshadowed by a A deadly attack on a civilian convoy in the south of the country.

Russia says it is just a response to a democratic decision made by people living in the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia – a claim few in the West take seriously. Instead, the move is seen as a broader escalation by Putin afterwards A series of defeats on the battlefield At the hands of a counterattack by Kyiv.

Besides announcing the annexation, Putin did so Partially mobilize his army – Pay Local reaction and mass exodus of Russians Escaping conscription – the intensified its nuclear threats against Ukraine and the West.

As more territory slips from the Russian leader’s grasp, the attempt to annex these four regions is seen by many as a desperate attempt to regain control, with the embattled Russian leader even suggesting that he would use his nuclear arsenal to defend the region.

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Putin addressed hundreds of officials and other dignitaries, some in suits and some in military uniform, at a lavish ceremony under giant golden chandeliers in Georgievsky Hall, in the grand Kremlin Palace.

The boarding ceremony began just after 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), as the crowded audience stood for a minute of silence while Putin paid tribute to the Russian “heroes” who died in the war, which he called a “special military operation.”

The platform is equipped with giant video screens and billboards announcing the four regions of Russia. Moscow will celebrate its claim over up to 15% of Ukraine, the continent’s largest country, with a pop concert on the city’s famous Red Square.

Photo: Russia, Ukraine and the conflict
People gather in central Moscow before a march and concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, on September 30, 2022.Alexander Nemenov/AFP – Getty Images

But underlining the disconnect between Friday’s ceremony and the ongoing chaos and bloodshed of the war, local officials said a missile attack on a convoy of cars traveling from Ukraine-controlled territory in Zaporizhia to Russian-occupied areas killed at least 23 people.

It was also clear that annexation does not mean control.

Thousands of Russian soldiers in the strategic city of Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region were about to be encircled by Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based military think tank, and other observers.

Rob Lee, a respected military analyst chronicling the conflict, chirp Thursday that Lehman’s “pocket” could collapse at any time, which would “overshadow the declaration of annexation.”

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It was not clear whether Putin was claiming all four regions, or only those parts that his army tightly controls.

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