Putin annexes four Ukraine territories
MOSCOW, Sept 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday annexed four territories in Ukraine controlled by his army at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin and urged Kyiv to lay down its arms and negotiate an end to seven months of fighting.
The lavish ceremony at the Kremlin, a turning point in recent post-Soviet history, came hours after shelling killed 25 people in Ukraine's southern region of Zaporizhzhia, one of the worst attacks against
Putin was defiant during a address to Russia's most senior political elite, telling the West the land grab was irreversible and calling on Ukraine's emboldened army to give up and negotiate a surrender.
"I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever," Putin said.
"We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately stop fighting and stop all hostilities... and return to the negotiating table," the Russian leader added.
The packed hall erupted to chants of "Russia! Russia" after the four leaders inked the deal, and Putin -- rarely seen making physical contact since the pandemic -- joined hands with his proxy leaders and was shown shouting along in unison on state TV.
Leading up to the ceremony Putin warned he could use nuclear weapons to retain control of the territories as Kyiv vowed the move would make no difference to its aims of kicking out Russian troops.
Ukraine's closest backer, Washington, said it would "never" recognise Russia's authority in the regions.
But early on Friday, an attack in Zaporizhzhia in the south, killed at least 25 people as civilians were preparing to leave to pick up relatives, Ukrainian officials said.
Bodies of people wearing civilian clothes were strewn across the ground after the attack and windows of cars blown out, an AFP photographer said.
One man, 56-year-old Viktor, said his life was saved because he went to get a coffee.
"The waitress gave it to me. And there was a bang. She got scared and left the cafe. A few minutes later, there was another explosion. Now she is on the floor," he said.
"I managed to hide. She did not."
"Only complete terrorists could do this," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "Bloodthirsty scum! You will definitely answer," he added.
But pro-Kremlin regional chief Vladimir Rogov accused Ukrainian troops of carrying out a "terrorist act". -AFP