Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday annexing around 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory, the biggest annexation attempted since the Second World War.
Putin will formally be annexing four more areas of Ukraine after self-styled referendums condemned by Ukraine and the West as a sham.
So-called votes were held in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east as well as in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.
The Russian President will make a major speech at the Kremlin. A stage has already been set up in Moscow’s Red Square with billboards proclaiming the four regions as part of Russia and a concert planned for the evening.
The event echoes Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which also followed a discredited referendum and was heralded by a presidential victory speech from a stage.
A point of no return. Largest forcible annexation of European territory since WW2. Commits him to defend it in perpetuity & capture the parts of it he doesn't occupy (lots). Prevents him giving it back to Ukraine as part of a settlement. And increases risk of escalation. https://t.co/ks8EGOMyCx
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) September 29, 2022
Putin to be slapped with new sanctions for sham referendums in annexed regions
The US has said it will impose sanctions on Russia because of the staged referendums while EU member states are considering the eighth round of measures, including sanctions on anyone involved in the votes.
“Russia has escalated the invasion of Ukraine to a new level,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president said on Wednesday afternoon.
“We do not accept the sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine and we’re determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday that people in occupied regions of Ukraine had been taken from their homes and workplaces by threat and sometimes at gunpoint.
“This is the opposite of free and fair elections,” Annalena Baerbock said, “and this is the opposite of peace…it is a dictated peace,” she said.
The BBC notes that seven months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine from the north, east, and south, war is still raging on front lines in all four areas to be officially annexed.
The capital of the southern region of Zaporizhzhia is firmly under the control of Ukraine’s government, and a counter-offensive is underway in Kherson.