Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian The annexation of Ukrainian regions by President Vladimir Putin and his massive mobilization of reservists will not prevent the Ukrainian forces from continuing their counter-offensive against Russian forces, senior Ukrainian officials told ABC News.
Putin on October 4 signed into law the annexation of four Ukrainian territories after illegal referendums, held last week in the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were formed in 2014, and parts of the southern oblasts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, which have been occupied by Russia since February 24.
The referendum “results” announced by the Russian-installed authorities alleged that more than 90% of voters in each region favored separation from Ukraine and join Russia.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called the referendums “yet another Russian crime” and “null and worthless”. The US, as well as the EU, condemned the orchestrated “vote”. President Joe Biden has vowed to “never, ever, ever” acknowledge the results of the Russian-led referendums.
By annexing Russian-occupied territory and threatening to use nuclear weapons, Putin is trying to force Kyiv to the negotiating table, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
Attacks on any part of the strip of Ukraine annexed by Russia would be considered aggression against Russia itself, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin has previously said he is prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity”.
An official from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine told ABC News that the likelihood of a Russian nuclear attack was considered low. He, as well as an official close to the defense minister, also said that the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions will in no way affect the Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive “for now”.
In response to the annexation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree Tuesday excluding any negotiations with Putin.
“It is our state that has always offered Russia to accept coexistence on an equal, honest, dignified and just footing,” Zelenskyy said. “It is obvious that this is impossible with this Russian president. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but already with another president of Russia. “
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the president’s office, told ABC: “For dialogue to become possible, Russia has to give up the basic demand – the claim to Ukrainian territory. And the ball is on the Russian side. A call is enough to give the order to cease fire and to withdraw the troops. Obviously, Putin will never go for that.
Russia does not fully control the four regions of Ukraine where the illegal referendums were held, further complicating the process of declaring these regions part of Russia.
“The territories of the DPR, the LPR and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions are within the borders that existed on the day of their establishment and the day of their entry into Russia,” says the Russian law signed by Putin . The “day of entry”, that is, when the Russian Parliament makes the corresponding changes to the Constitution.
But for a week between the referendums and the day Putin signed the law, the Ukrainian Armed Forces advanced more than 30 km into the Kherson region and liberated, among other things, a town of Lyman in the Lugansk region.
The military plan announced by Putin on September 21 will also not change the course of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian General Staff and Defense Ministry officials told ABC News.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that 200,000 troops had now been mobilized, but the actual number is still unclear. The British Ministry of Defense said Russia was struggling to recruit troop leaders and train new conscripts.
Mykola Belieskov, a researcher at Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, said the project “should be viewed primarily as an effort to keep the current front line intact.”
“As you see, no Russian strikes so far, although Ukrainian forces are advancing,” he told ABC.
The Institute for War Studies also said in one of its daily reports that the Kremlin’s decision to mobilize more troops will not improve the performance of the Russian military in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy called on Russian conscripts to go to Ukraine.
“We see that people, especially in Dagestan, have started to fight for their lives. We see that they are beginning to understand that it is a question of their life,” he said, alternating in his speech between the Ukrainian and Russian languages. “Why should their husbands, brothers, sons die in this war?