- Russian annexation of four regions worldwide condemned
- Movement is ‘dangerous escalation’ endangering peace – UN chief
- Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Says Putin Must Be Stopped To End War
- Zelenskiy convenes emergency meeting on security, defense
Sept. 30 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to hold a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin should be stopped for Russia to avoid the war’s most damaging effects.
There was also a warning from UN chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and would jeopardize the prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled the invasion he ordered in February, despite a major turnaround on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands of additional men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
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“The price of one person in Russia who wants to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a valuable life or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a speech Thursday evening.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it, we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your life, citizens of Russia,” said Zelenskiy, who previously spoke of Ukraine being a “very hard” response to Russian recognition of the results of what it has called referendums.
Russia’s annexation of the eastern and southern provinces comes after Ukraine and western countries said they were sham votes held at gunpoint in the Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. The territory that Russia controls covers more than 90,000 square km, or about 15% of the total area of Ukraine – equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediate step on Thursday by signing decrees paving the way for the formal annexation of the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya to Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelenskiy promised a strong response to the annexations and convened his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be made, an official said.
On the eve of the ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all the mistakes” made last week in an appeal must be corrected, his first public admission that it is not went quickly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid conscription that was billed as recruiting people with military experience and required specialties, but often unaware of service record, health, student status, or even the age of individuals.
Russia says the referendums, which ostensibly asked people in the four regions if they wanted to join Russia, were sincere and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will deliver a speech, meet with leaders of the self-proclaimed Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya occupying Russian forces.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the concert in Red Square, as he held a similar event in 2014 after Russia announced it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimean region.
A podium has been set up in Moscow Square with giant video screens and billboards announcing the four territories of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation … would have no legal value and should be condemned,” UN Secretary-General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims to Ukraine’s territory, and rejected the referenda.
“The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said Thursday at a conference of leaders of the Pacific islands.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Putin to take steps to ease tensions in Ukraine.
Russian government officials have said the four regions will come under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he can use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
The United States and the European Union will impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation, and even some of Russia’s closest traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia considers a celebration comes after it suffered the worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its troops on the run in the northeastern region of Kharkov.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, especially Donetsk and Luhansk.
Some military experts say Kiev is on the brink of another major defeat, gradually encircling the city of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province. Its capture would open the way to the Luhansk region.
“If Lyman falls, our troops… could cut off the main supply corridor to Russian forces in Sivierodonetsk and Lysychansk (in Luhansk),” the Ukrainian military general staff said. The two cities were taken by Russian troops in June and July.
In the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian army said it had killed 43 Russian soldiers and destroyed two Russian Su-25 aircraft, four tanks, four large-caliber howitzers, two self-propelled guns and a reconnaissance drone.
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Reporting by Reuters agencies; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Gerry Doyle
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