- Russian annexation of four regions condemned in the world
- Decision a ‘dangerous escalation’ jeopardizing peace, says UN chief
- Ukrainian Zelenskiy says that for the war to end Putin, you have to stop
- Zelenskiy calls emergency meeting on security and defense
September 30 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to hold a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin should be arrested if Russia is to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was also a warning from UN chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and would undermine prospects for peace.
Putin doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite a major battlefield reversal this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized ‘partial mobilization’ of thousands more troops to fight in Ukraine . Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation”.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
“The cost of someone in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a dignified life or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a speech late Thursday.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it, we have to stop this person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, Russian citizens,” said Zelenskiy, who spoke earlier about Ukraine a “very harsh” reaction Russia’s recognition of the results of what it called the referenda.
Russia’s annexation of the eastern and southern provinces comes after what Ukraine and Western countries have described as sham votes held at gunpoint in the Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory controlled by Russia amounts to more than 90,000 km2, or about 15% of the total area of Ukraine – equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the interim step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for the formal annexation of the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelenskiy has pledged a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be made, an official said.
On the eve of the ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said “all mistakes” made in a summons announced last week should be corrected, his first public recognition that all had not gone well.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that has been portrayed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialties, but who have often seemed oblivious to service records, health, student status or even the age of individuals.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions if they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will deliver a speech, meet with leaders of the Russian-backed so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as Russian-installed leaders in parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia occupied by Russian forces.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the concert in Red Square, as he did at a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed the region Crimean Ukrainian.
A stage was set up in Moscow Square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four regions that are part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with annexation (…) would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” said the UN Secretary General. Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden has said that the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory, denouncing referendums.
“The results were fabricated in Moscow,” Biden told a Pacific Island leaders conference on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has urged Putin to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.
Russian government officials said the four regions would fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they were formally incorporated into Russia. Putin said he could use nuclear weapons defend Russian territory if necessary.
The United States and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize this decision.
What Russia presents as a celebration comes after it faced its worst setbacks in the seven-month war, with its forces routed in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, especially Donetsk and Lugansk.
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining stronghold in the northern part of Donetsk province. Its capture would open the way to the Lugansk region.
“If Lyman falls, our forces can (…) cut off the main supply corridor for Russian troops in Sivierodonetsk and Lysychansk (in Luhansk),” the Ukrainian military staff said. Both towns were taken by Russian troops in June and July.
In the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military said it killed 43 Russian servicemen and destroyed two Russian Su-25 planes, four tanks, four large-caliber howitzers, two self-propelled guns and a reconnaissance drone.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reports from Reuters offices; written by Grant McCool; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Gerry Doyle
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.