- Condemning the Russian annexation of four regions around the world
- UN Secretary-General: The move is a “dangerous escalation” that endangers peace
- Zelensky says the war to end Putin must stop
- Zelenskiy calls an emergency meeting on security and defense
Sept 30 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday to annex four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to stop Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of war.
And there was a warning from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and would threaten peace prospects.
Putin redoubled his efforts in the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major battlefield retreat this month and resentment in Russia over the widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands of other men to fight in Ukraine. Russia describes the war in Ukraine as a “special operation”.
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“The cost of one person in Russia willing to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for human values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech Thursday evening.
Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine’s “extremely harsh” reaction to Russia’s recognition of the results of what it called the referendums, said.
Russia’s annexation of the eastern and southern provinces comes after what Ukraine and Western countries said were fake votes organized at gunpoint in the Russian-occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia. The area of the territory controlled by Russia is more than 90,000 square kilometers, or about 15% of the total area of Ukraine – equivalent to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took an intermediate step by signing decrees on Thursday, paving the way for the formal annexation of occupied Kherson and Zaporizhia regions to Russia. The decrees were published by the Kremlin.
An official said Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” would be made.
On the eve of the ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace and a concert on Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a summons announced last week should be corrected, the first public admission that it did not happen. It went smoothly.
Thousands of men fled Russia to avoid enlistment, which was described as conscription with military experience and required disciplines but often appeared oblivious to the individuals’ service history, health, student status, or even their ages.
Russia says the referendums, which ostensibly ask people in the four regions if they want to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed popular support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will deliver a speech, meeting with leaders of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as Russia-installed leaders for the Russian-occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square ceremony, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia announced it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A podium was erected in Moscow Square with giant video screens and billboards declaring that the four regions are part of Russia.
“Any decision to go ahead with annexation … will have no legal value and merit condemnation,” UN Secretary-General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden has said that the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums.
“The results were made in Moscow,” Biden said at a Pacific Island leaders conference on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pressed Putin to call for steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they are formally incorporated into Russia. Putin said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
The United States and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation, and even some of Russia’s traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia considers a celebration comes after it faced its worst setbacks in the seven-month-old war, with the defeat of its forces in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, notably Donetsk and Luhansk.
Some military experts say that Kyiv is preparing to receive another major defeat, as it gradually encircles the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining stronghold in the northern part of Donetsk province. Capturing it would open the way to the Luhansk region.
“If the Lyman falls, our forces can … cut off the main supply corridor of Russian forces in Severodonetsk and Lychansk (in Luhansk),” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said. Russian forces took control of the two cities in June and July.
In the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military said it had killed 43 Russian soldiers and destroyed two Russian Su-25 aircraft, four tanks, four heavy-caliber howitzers, two self-propelled guns and a reconnaissance drone.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Grant McCall; Editing by Bill Bercrot and Jerry Doyle
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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