Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin has recognized two war-torn regions of Ukraine as independent states, ahead of the biggest military annexation of European territory since the Second World War.
The Kremlin dictator signed decrees recognising Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the country’s south and east as states independent of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Government – a precursor to Putin’s deranged plot to illegally absorb 15% of Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation.
Under an amendment to the Russian constitution made in 2020, Putin and his predecessors are forbidden from ceding any territory once acquired – meaning once the annexation is completed today, it will be irreversible unless Ukraine can successfully recapture the stolen land. Even a partial withdrawal as part of a future peace deal with Kyiv will become impossible.
At an official ceremony in St George’s Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace today, where marble plaques engraved in gold commemorate Russian military heroes, Putin will preside over a treaty-signing proclaiming the annexation of four regions of Ukraine – the breakaway People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The Russian annexation will then be followed by planned celebratory concerts and rallies in the occupied territories and Moscow’s Red Square, where Putin is expected to outline his view on why Ukraine has no right to an independent existence.
The stage-managed exercise follows a bogus five-day voting process across Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk that was entirely rigged in favour of becoming part of Putin’s Russia. Moscow’s proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99% in favour of joining. However, Ukraine and Western governments described those votes as bogus, illegitimate and conducted at gunpoint.
MPs in the Duma, Russia’s puppet parliament, are expected to rubber stamp the move next week. It is a carbon copy of Moscow’s approach in 2014 when it held a fake referendum in Crimea as a pretext for moving in and seizing the Ukrainian peninsula.
It also marks a dramatic escalation of Putin’s seven-month war, taking it into an unpredictable new phase that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.
But despite the triumphal setting, the annexation 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. And 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, while Putin himself said yesterday “all mistakes must be corrected”.
Kyiv said that the annexation votes will not stop their armed forces from trying to retake its illegally stolen land, vowing a ‘harsh’ response. For its part, Russia pledges to defend all its territory – including newly annexed regions – by all available means, including nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s Western supporters have described the stage-managed referendums on whether to live under Russian rule as a bald-faced ‘land grab’ based on lies. They say some people were forced to vote at gunpoint in an election without independent observers on territory from which thousands of residents have fled or been forcibly deported.
It comes amid allegations of sabotage of two Russian pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor that were designed to feed natural gas to Europe.