Putin to officially annex 4 Ukrainian regions on Friday
Published : Friday, 30 September, 2022 at 4:43 PM Count : 1333
At a ceremony denounced by Ukraine as a "Kremlin freak show", Russian President Vladimir Putin will proclaim the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday, escalating his seven-month war and taking it into an unpredictable new phase.
Putin will preside over a treaty-signing on "the entry of new territories into the Russian Federation", three days after the completion of hastily staged referendums in which Moscow's proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99% in favour of joining Russia.
Ukraine and Western governments described those votes as bogus, illegitimate and conducted at gunpoint. "The Kremlin's sham referenda are a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.
Moscow says people chose freely to return to their "historic motherland".
The ceremony - eight years after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine following an invasion and a similar vote - will take place at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) in the columned St George's Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, where marble plaques engraved in gold commemorate Russian military heroes.
But despite the triumphal setting, the annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions comes at a perilous moment for Putin.
After months of grinding, attritional warfare, Ukraine seized the initiative this month by routing Russian forces in the northeastern Kharkiv region. Putin last week declared an unpopular partial mobilisation, prompting thousands of fighting-age men to flee the country. Even staunch Kremlin allies have criticised the chaotic nature of the call-up, and Putin himself said on Thursday that "all mistakes must be corrected".