Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to annex occupied areas of Ukraine and said he would use “all available means” to protect territory that Ukrainian and Western officials said Russia claims illegally and in violation of international law.
In a speech before the treaty signing ceremony, Putin urged Ukraine to sit down for talks to end seven months of fighting that began when he ordered his forces to invade the neighboring country. But he warned that Russia would not give up the areas that were absorbed and would protect them as part of its sovereign territory.
The ceremony came three days after the completion of “referendums” organized by the Kremlin on joining Russia, which Kyiv and the West rejected as a land grab at gunpoint and based on lies.
Putin said the Ukrainian authorities should “treat… with respect” the unbalanced results of the votes run by Moscow, and sharply warned that Russia would never relinquish its control over the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Both houses of Russia’s parliament, which is controlled by the Kremlin, will meet next week to rubber-stamp treaties on the accession of regions to Russia and send them to Putin for his approval.
Ukrainian officials dismissed Putin’s comments, saying that Ukraine’s future would be decided on the Ukraine’s battlefields.
We continue to work and liberate the Ukrainian lands. “We do not pay attention to those for whom it is time to take the pills,” said Andrey Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office. The army is working and Ukraine is united. Just go ahead.”
The event was organized in the Kremlin’s opulent white and gold St. George’s Hall for Putin and the heads of Ukraine’s four regions to sign treaties for regions that would join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the seven-month-old conflict.
The breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine have had Moscow’s support since declaring independence in 2014, weeks after Ukraine’s annexation of Crimea. Russia occupied the southern Kherson region and part of neighboring Zaporizhzhya shortly after Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Putin and his aides openly warned Ukraine against pressing an offensive to retake the territories, saying that Russia would view it as an act of aggression against its sovereign territory and would not hesitate to use “all available means” in response, referring to Russia. nuclear arsenal.
The elections organized by the Kremlin in Ukraine and the nuclear warning are an attempt by Putin to avoid further defeats in Ukraine that could threaten his 22-year rule.
Russia controls most of the Luhansk and Kherson regions, about 60% of the Donetsk region and much of the Zaporizhzhia region where it controlled the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
Asked about Russia’s plans, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow aimed at at least “liberating” the entire Donetsk region.
As the Kremlin prepared to celebrate the consolidation of occupied Ukrainian regions, the Kremlin was about to suffer another battlefield loss, with reports of an imminent Ukrainian encirclement of the eastern city of Lyman.
Recapturing it could open the way for Ukraine to push deeper into one of the areas Russia is absorbing, a move widely condemned as illegal and ushering in a dangerous new phase in the seven-month-old war.
On Friday, Russia also bombed Ukrainian cities with missiles, missiles and suicide drones, and one strike reportedly killed 25 people. The shots combined were the deadliest volleys Russia had launched in weeks.
This followed warnings by analysts that Putin is likely to indulge more in his dwindling stockpile of precision weapons and escalate attacks as part of a strategy to escalate the war to such an extent that it would erode Western support for Ukraine.
The Kremlin preempted Friday’s annexation ceremony with another warning to Ukraine that it should not fight to retake the four regions. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would regard the Ukrainian attack on the captured area as an act of aggression against Russia itself.
The annexations are a Russian attempt to set its gains in stone, at least on paper, and frighten Ukraine and its Western backers at the prospect of an increasingly escalating conflict unless they back down — which they have shown no sign of doing. The Kremlin paved the way for land grabs through “referendums,” sometimes at gunpoint, which Ukraine and Western powers have universally rejected as rigged.
“It sounds pathetic. Ukrainians are doing something, taking steps in the real physical world, while the Kremlin is building a kind of virtual reality, unable to respond in the real world,” said former Kremlin speechwriter-turned-political analyst Abbas Galiamov.
“People understand that politics is now on the battlefield,” he added. “What is important is who is advancing and who is regressing. In this sense, the Kremlin cannot offer anything comforting to the Russians.”
The Ukrainian counterattack deprived Moscow of sovereignty on the military battlefields. Its control of the Luhansk region appears increasingly shaky, as Ukrainian forces invade there, with a pincer attack on Lyman. Ukraine still has a significant foothold in the neighboring Donetsk region.
Luhansk and Donetsk – wracked by fighting since separatists there declared independence in 2014 – make up the broader Donbass region in eastern Ukraine that Putin has long pledged to make all-Russian, but so far failed. Peskov said that on Friday, Donetsk and Luhansk will be fully integrated into Russia.
Kherson and parts of Zaporozhye, two other regions being prepared for annexation, were newly conquered at the opening stage of the conquest. It is unclear whether the Kremlin will declare all or only part of the occupied territories as Russia. Peskov will not say on Friday’s call with reporters.
In the capital of the Zaporizhzhya region, anti-aircraft missiles were reused by Russia as ground-attack weapons rained on Friday people waiting in cars to cross Russian-occupied territory so that they could bring their family members back across the front lines, the vice president said. From the Ukrainian presidential office, said Kirillo Tymoshenko.
The prosecutor’s office said 25 people were killed and 50 wounded. The strike left deep craters and shrapnel shrapnel into the vehicles lined up for the humanitarian convoy, killing its occupants. Nearby buildings were demolished. Trash bags, blankets and a blood-soaked towel were used to cover the bodies of one of the victims.
Russia-based officials in Zaporizhia blamed Ukrainian forces for the strike, but did not provide any evidence.
There were also reports of Russian strikes in the city of Dnipro. Regional Governor Valentin Reznichenko said at least one person was killed and five wounded.
Ukraine’s air force said the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Odessa have also been targeted by Iran-supplied suicide drones and increasingly deployed by Russia in recent weeks, apparently to avoid losing more pilots who do not control Ukraine’s skies.
Putin was expected to give a keynote speech at the ceremony to include Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia to Russia. The Kremlin plans for regional officials loyal to Moscow to sign annexation treaties in the ornate St. George’s Hall in the palace in Moscow that is Putin’s seat of power.
Putin also issued decrees recognizing the supposed independence of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, steps he had previously taken in February for Luhansk and Donetsk and before that for Crimea, which was captured from Ukraine in 2014.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called an emergency meeting of his National Security and Defense Council, and denounced the latest Russian strikes.
“The enemy is raging and seeking revenge for our steadfastness and its failures,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. “You will certainly answer. For every lost Ukrainian life!”
The United States and its allies have promised more sanctions on Russia and billions of dollars in additional support for Ukraine as the Kremlin repeats evidence of annexation used in Crimea.
With Ukraine vowing to take back all occupied territories and Russia vowing to defend its gains, threatening to use nuclear weapons and mobilizing an additional 300,000 troops despite protests, The two countries are on an increasingly escalating collision course.
This was confirmed by the fight for the Lyman, a key node of Russian military operations in the Donbass and a coveted prize in the Ukrainian counteroffensive that began in late August.
The Russian-backed separatist leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushlin, said the city was now “half-encircled” by Ukrainian forces. In statements carried by the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti, he described the setback as “disturbing news.”
“Ukrainian armed formations are trying hard to spoil our celebration,” he said.
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