Russia to annex occupied Ukrainian regions at Putin ceremony

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Russia will formally annex four regions of Ukraine that are partially controlled by the military, the Kremlin announced on Thursday, in a major political escalation of the war against its neighbor.

It comes after Moscow-backed authorities in the occupied regions of eastern and southern Ukraine held votes widely labeled a sham to justify land grabs after Russia’s recent military setbacks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend a ceremony Friday marking the accession of the four regions – Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya – at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall.

“There will also be a big speech from Putin there,” he said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has labeled the ballots an illegal “propaganda show”. The United States and its Western allies have also vowed not to recognize Russia’s claim to the occupied territories.

In the voting, armed troops accompanied election officials who went door to door asking people to vote.

The State Department says it will impose further economic sanctions on Russia in response to what spokesman Ned Price called a “land grab” on Wednesday.

“Based on our information, every aspect of this referendum process was pre-organized and orchestrated by the Kremlin,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told another briefing.

The hastily arranged votes were announced last week alongside Putin’s statement that he would call on military reservists to bolster his struggling Ukraine campaign.

That prompted an exodus of thousands of Russians trying to flee conscription, with miles of traffic queues at the border crossings with Georgia and Finland — the latter announced Thursday it would close its border to Russian tourists.

Many Western pundits consider the actions a desperate act by Putin, whose forces have been driven back in recent weeks by a lightning-fast Ukrainian counter-offensive.

There is also international concern about how Moscow might try to defend its newly claimed territory if and when Kiev tries to take it back.

In a rare national speech last week to announce the partial mobilization, Putin promised that Russia would use all available means to protect what it considers its territory — a thinly veiled nuclear threat — and warned, “This is not a bluff.”

The US has responded that any use of nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with a “catastrophic” response, without elaboration.

It is not the first time that Russia has annexed Ukrainian land. In 2014, the year Moscow began supporting pro-Kremlin forces in eastern Ukraine, Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula after a vote that was also dismissed as a sham.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is undeterred by the new annexations, and pledges to recapture and liberate all of his country’s territory currently under Russian control.

According to the latest daily briefing from the Institute for the Study, Russian troops in a strategic city in Donetsk – Lyman – are about to be surrounded by Ukrainian forces, underscoring the challenges the Kremlin faces in capturing that country. despite the formal annexation. of War, a US military think tank.

Associated Press contributed.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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