Russia will make official tomorrow the annexation of the territories it controls in Ukraine, the Kremlin announced today, also informing that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a speech on the occasion.
The announcement comes after Russia itself held annexation “referendums” in four regions of Ukraine partially controlled by Moscow: Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, Kherson and zaporizhzhia in the south. The areas represent about 15% of the total territory of Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky’s government and Western countries such as the United States called the polls “farces”. and they have already stated that they will not recognize the annexation of the territories.
“A ceremony for signing agreements on the entry of new territories into the Russian Federation will take place tomorrow (Friday) at 15:00 (9:00 GMT) in the Kremlin,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today.
Agreements will be signed “with all four territories that have held referendums and made corresponding requests on the Russian side,” he added.
Russia already annexed the Crimean peninsula (south) in 2014, which was also not recognized by the international community.
Referendums are contested. According to a poll released by the Kremlin, there was a “broad majority” for membership in the four areas: Donetsk 99.23% voted “yes”; Lugansk had 98.42%; Kherson was 87.05%; and Zaporizhizhia of 93.11%.
However, the vote is not recognized by any major country or international body. The UN itself (United Nations) stated that the referendums have “no legal basis in international law” and were held in “areas of active conflict”.
Today, the UN Secretary-General stated that if Russia goes ahead with its plans, it will mark a “dangerous escalation”: “Any decision to proceed with the annexation of the Donetsk regions, luhansk, Kherson and zaporizhzhia in Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” António Guterres told reporters.
Ukraine, on the other hand, denounced that residents were forced to vote, threatened with heavy weapons, and that the result “has been ready for a long time”.
The Ukrainians’ international allies also said the referendums “do not change at all” the situation on the battlefield.
Even China, Moscow’s main ally on the international front, said the “territorial sovereignty” of nations must be respected.
Union of Ukrainian territories represents an escalation in Russia’s offensive. Several Russian officials and analysts have said that when these areas are annexed and considered by Moscow as part of its territory, Russia will be able to use nuclear weapons to “defend” them.
Putin declared last week that Russia was ready to use “all means” in its arsenal to “defend” its territory.
Last week, Putin declared that he was not bluffing when he said he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to “protect” Russia. He also called up some 300,000 army reservists to join the troops in the war against Ukraine, which has entered its seventh month.
*With information from AFP and Reuters