New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed “independence” of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, according to presidential decrees issued late Thursday, as reported by the news agency AFP. This comes on the eve of Russia finalising the regions’ annexation. It is a precursor to their annexation by Russia.
“I order the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence” of the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, located in southern Ukraine, Putin said in the decrees, as Russia prepares to formalise the annexation of the two regions, along with Donetsk and Lugansk on Friday, reported AFP.
Putin took similar steps in February this year regarding Luhansk and Donetsk and earlier for Crimea. Moscow will annex four occupied regions of Ukraine at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the annexation of the areas would be formalised at the ceremony and that Putin would deliver a major speech. Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend the territories, as reported by AFP.
Although, the threats issued by Putin have not deterred a sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive, which has been pushing back Russian troops in the east and is on the doorstep of the Donetsk region town of Lyman, which Moscow’s forces pummelled for weeks before capturing it this summer.
Ukraine Calls For More Sanctions Against Russia, US Accuses Moscow Of ‘Land Grab’
The Kremlin-installed leaders of the four regions that pleaded to Putin for annexation this week were gathered in the Russian capital Thursday ahead of the ceremony. Their nearly simultaneous requests came after they claimed residents had unanimously backed the move in hastily organised referendums that were dismissed by Kyiv and the West as illegal, fraudulent and void.
Ukraine said the only appropriate response from the West was to hit Russia with more sanctions and to supply Ukrainian forces with more weapons to keep reclaiming territory. US President Joe Biden, on Thursday said that “the United States will never, never, never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine sovereign territory, reported AFP.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday accused Russia of a “land grab” after referendums in Ukraine and that the US will never recognise the legitimacy or outcome of the “sham” referenda, as reported by news agency PTI.
Blinken said that Russia has forced much of the population in areas it seized to flee and compelled Ukraine’s citizens that remained to cast ballots at gunpoint, in fear for their safety, and the safety of their loved ones.
“The United States and our allies and partners will continue to assist Ukraine in its fight to defend its territory against Russian aggression. We wholeheartedly support Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders,” PTI quoted Blinken as saying.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also rejected the annexation plans, and called them “a dangerous escalation” that “has no place in the modern world.”
(With Inputs from agencies)