© Reuters. Firefighters and Ukrainian army soldiers search for the bodies of those killed in the Russian attack, among the remains of a building next to a TV tower, in the town of Izium, Kharkiv region, Ukraine just liberated September 28, 2022. REUTERS / Zohra Be
LONDON (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin will begin formally annexing four regions of Ukraine to Russia on Friday in a move that the United Nations has warned would mark a “dangerous escalation” and should be avoided. condemn.
Moscow’s annexation plan of 15% of Ukraine’s territory, after what Kyiv and Western countries see as a sound referendum held in Russian-held regions, confirms that Putin is increasing doubled in his fight despite suffering a major military reversal this month.
Ukraine’s military on Thursday was advancing to capture the Russian-held eastern town of Lyman in the Donetsk region, military experts said, threatening a new set of steps back for Putin’s campaign, military experts said. know, even as he was about to declare the region part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine will have no legal validity and deserve condemnation,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters.
“Any decision by Russia to continue would jeopardize the prospects for peace,” he added.
Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelenskiy announced an emergency meeting with his security and defense leaders on Friday, promising a harsh response to a step he says has lost the chance to restore the country’s economy. restore peace negotiations.
The votes “are null and void and do not change reality. The territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored”, he said.
Ukraine’s top general said he and the top US military commander in Europe discussed the war and that he had received assurances of further support from Washington.
Putin’s merger ceremony will be held in one of the Kremlin’s largest halls with pro-Russian figures Moscow sees as leaders of four Ukrainian regions. Russia says the referendums are authentic and show public support.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that Putin will give an important speech and will give a concert on Red Square in Moscow. A court has been set up there with huge video screens and billboards declaring “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”
Peskov did not say whether Putin would appear at the concert. He did so at a similar event in 2014 after Russia announced its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A political adviser to the President of Ukraine on Thursday said the ceremony had “no legal significance” and would be a “monstrous display of the Kremlin.”
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over its annexation plans, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they won’t. acknowledge this move.
Putin publicly supported the merger plan in a speech last week, in which he also announced the call for hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists, and warned he could use nuclear weapons to protect them. defend Russian territory if necessary.
On Thursday, Putin said that the West was ready to incite “color revolutions” and a “bloodbath” in any country, without naming a specific country.
With tens of thousands of Russian men fleeing abroad to evade Putin’s call to join the army, Finland has closed one of the few remaining routes to Europe and announced it will not allow Russians to enter. by road with an EU tourist visa.
More than half of Russians feel scared or anxious after hearing about the appeal, according to a poll released by the independent Levada Center on Thursday.
The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said the lower house could consider merging the four regions on October 4, three days before Putin’s 70th birthday.
What Russia is advertising as a celebration comes after Moscow faced its worst defeat of the war, with its forces deployed in recent weeks in northeastern Ukraine.
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to make another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining main fortress in northern Donetsk province. Its demise could pave the way for Ukrainian forces to launch attacks on territories Russia now wants to annex.
Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, said on Twitter (NYSE:): “The situation looks increasingly precarious for Russian forces in Lyman as Ukrainian forces are about to cut them off.
“Another painful defeat for the invading Russian forces is looming.”
Kyiv has so far not revealed details of the situation in Lyman. The Russian Defense Ministry said a day earlier that a Ukrainian attack on Lyman had failed, with 70 Ukrainian soldiers killed.
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they are formally incorporated into Russia.
The US has just unveiled a $1.1 billion weapons package for Ukraine, and security aid for the US amounting to $16.2 billion.
The mystery continues around an apparent attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea, built to transport Russian gas to Europe despite being closed.
At least three explosions that sent hundreds of thousands of tons of methane to the surface this week have caused serious, possibly permanent, damage to pipelines. Sweden’s coast guard said it had found a fourth leak.
Western countries have called the incidents vandalism while stopping to publicly attribute responsibility. Russia, which has denied involvement, said the incidents resembled state-sponsored acts of terrorism and that the United States would benefit.