Russia plans to annex more of Ukraine on Friday

Four regions — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — to be annexed at Kremlin ceremony



AP
AP

By AP

Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 11:26 PM

Russia planned to annex more of Ukraine on Friday in an escalation of the seven-month war that was expected to isolate the Kremlin further, draw it more international punishment and bring Ukraine extra military, political and economic support.

The annexation — and planned celebratory concerts and rallies in Moscow and the occupied territories — would come just days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” that Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced as illegal, forced and rigged.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — would be folded into Russia during a Kremlin ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to give a major speech. Peskov said the regions’ pro-Moscow administrators would sign treaties to join Russia in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall.

In an apparent response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an emergency meeting Friday of his National Security and Defence Council.

The US and its allies have promised to adopt even more sanctions than they've already levied against Russia and to offer millions of dollars in extra support for Ukraine as the Kremlin duplicates the annexation playbook it followed when it incorporated Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Ukraine has repeated its vows to recapture the four regions, as well as Crimea. 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.

In unusually strong language, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday in New York that Russia's annexation would violate the U.N. Charter and has “no legal value." He described the move as “a dangerous escalation” and said it "must not be accepted.”

“Any decision by Russia to go forward will further jeopardize the prospects for peace,” Guterres said.

As a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia bears “a particular responsibility” to respect the U.NCharter, the secretary-general said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres conveyed the message to Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, during a meeting Wednesday.

The European Union also objected strongly to Russia's plans.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable," said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country holds the European Union presidency. “We reject such one-sided annexation based on a fully falsified process with no legitimacy.”

Lipavsky described the pro-Russia referendums as “theatre play" and insisted the regions remain "Ukrainian territory.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a conference in Berlin that Russia's moves were “the opposite of peace."

"It’s dictated peace. As long as this Russian diktat prevails in the occupied territories of Ukraine, no citizen is safe. No citizen is free,” he said.

In what would be a major blow to Moscow’s war effort, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Ukrainian forces may soon entirely encircle Lyman, a city 160 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“The collapse of the Lyman pocket will likely be highly consequential to the Russian grouping" in the northern Donetsk and western Luhansk regions and "may allow Ukrainian troops to threaten Russian positions along the western Luhansk” region, the institute said, citing Russian reports.


More news from Europe