Putin announces verdict on confiscated Ukrainian lands in a letter

  • Putin will sign the annexation papers on Friday
  • May he attend the Red Square victory party
  • Ukraine and the West say the annexation is an illegal move
  • EU sanctions the United States to follow
  • Ukraine threatens Russian gains on the battlefield

LONDON (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin will sign documents on Friday declaring Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, as Moscow races to investigate regional allegations that Ukraine’s military is threatening to withdraw on the battlefield.

The move, one of the legal steps Russia says will result in the formal annexation of 15% of Ukraine’s territory, confirms that Putin is doubling his war against Ukraine despite suffering a major military coup this month.

The annexation, after what Kyiv and Western countries described as sham referendums held at gunpoint in Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory, was dismissed in the West as the illegal confiscation of land captured in the war.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky summoned his security and defense ministers for an emergency meeting on Friday, promising a strong response to a move he says is killing chances of reviving peace talks.

Zelensky said in a statement that the vote “has no value and does not change reality. Ukraine’s territorial integrity will be restored. Our reaction to Russia’s recognition of the results will be very harsh.”

Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.

The ceremony of Putin’s inclusion will take place in one of the most magnificent halls of the Kremlin with the pro-Russian figures that Moscow considers the leaders of the four Ukrainian regions – Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia says the referendums were genuine and showed public support for the move.

After days of speculation about how Russia will celebrate the annexation, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed some details of the ceremony on Thursday.

Peskov said that agreements “on the accession of new territories to the Russian Federation” will be signed “with all four regions that held referendums and submitted similar requests to the Russian side.”

He added that Putin will deliver a keynote speech on this subject.

On Friday, a big concert will take place on Moscow’s Red Square, where a platform with giant video screens has already been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson – Russia!”

Peskov did not say if Putin would attend the ceremony. He did so at a similar event in 2014 after Russia announced that it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Putin publicly backed the annexation plans in a speech last week in which he also announced the call-up of hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists, and warned that he might use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.

With tens of thousands of Russian men fleeing abroad to escape Putin’s military recall, Finland has closed one of the few remaining routes to Europe, saying it will no longer allow Russians to enter by land on EU tourist visas.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said the chamber may consider merging the four regions on October 4, three days before Putin’s 70th birthday.

What Russia considers a celebration comes after Moscow faced the worst setbacks of the war, with its forces defeated in recent weeks in northeastern Ukraine.

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. Its fall could open the way for Ukrainian forces to launch attacks on the vast swathes of territory that Russia now aims to annex.

“The situation looks increasingly precarious for Russian forces in Lyman, as Ukrainian forces are close to being isolated,” Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, said on Twitter.

Another painful defeat for the Russian invasion forces looms.

Kyiv has so far refrained from revealing the details of the situation in Lyman. The Russian Defense Ministry said the day before that the Ukrainian attack on Lyman had failed, with 70 Ukrainian soldiers killed.

nuclear umbrella

Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they are formally incorporated into Russia.

The United States has unveiled a $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine that includes 18 High Mobility Rocket Launchers (HIMARS), accompanying munitions, and various types of UAVs and radar systems. The announcement raises US security assistance to $16.2 billion.

Mystery continued to swirl around an apparent attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea, which were built to carry Russian gas to Europe despite already being closed.

At least three explosions seeping hundreds of thousands of tons of methane to the surface this week have severely damaged pipes, possibly permanently. The Swedish Coast Guard said it discovered a fourth leak.

Western countries described these incidents as subversive, but stopped short of publicly blaming them. Russia, which has denied involvement, said the events appeared to be state-sponsored acts of terrorism and that the United States would benefit.

An EU official said the bloc’s leaders will discuss the issue next week, adding that the apparent sabotage has fundamentally changed the nature of the conflict in Ukraine.

NATO said the explosions appeared to be a reckless and irresponsible act of sabotage and that any deliberate attack against the infrastructure of the Western alliance countries would be met with a “united and resolute response.”

CNN, citing three sources, reported that European security officials had noted the presence of Russian Navy support ships and submarines not far from Nord Stream sites that had previously leaked.

In response to a request for comment on the CNN report, Peskov said there was a much larger NATO presence in the region.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Andrew Osborne; Editing by Peter Graf

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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