Putin announced annexation of captured Ukrainian territory on Friday

  • Putin will sign the annexation documents on Friday
  • You can attend the Red Square Victory Concert
  • Ukraine, the West say the annexation is illegal
  • US EU sanctions will follow
  • Ukraine threatens Russian victories on the battlefield

LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin will sign formal documents on Friday for Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, as Moscow moves to lock down regional claims that the Ukrainian military threatens to reverse on the battlefield.

The move, one of the legal steps Russia says will lead to the formal annexation of 15% of Ukraine’s territory, confirms Putin is doubling down on his war against Ukraine despite suffering a major military setback this month.

The annexation was rejected internationally as an illegal seizure of war-torn territory after Kyiv and the West said it was a fake referendum held at gunpoint in Russian-held Ukrainian territory.

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Washington and the European Union plan to impose additional sanctions on Russia, and even some of Russia’s closest traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the annexation.

The signing ceremony will take place in one of the Kremlin’s grand halls with pro-Russian figures considered by Moscow to be the leaders of four Ukrainian regions: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia says the polls are genuine and that there is public support for the move.

After speculation about how Russia will mark the merger, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed some details of the ceremony on Thursday.

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Peskov said that agreements “on the inclusion of new territories into the Russian Federation” would be signed “with the four territories that held referendums and made relevant demands to the Russian side.”

Putin will make a keynote speech on the subject, Peskov said. A huge rock concert will take place on Friday in Moscow’s Red Square, where a tribune with giant video screens has already been set up, with billboards reading “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson – Russia!”

Peskov did not say whether Putin would appear at the concert. He did so in a similar event in 2014 after Russia announced its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Russia is billing it as a celebration after Moscow suffered the worst setback of the war, with its forces driven into the northeast in recent weeks.

Putin publicly backed the annexation plans in a speech last week in which he announced he would call in hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.

Some military experts say Kiev is poised to deliver another major defeat by gradually encircling the city of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining stronghold in northern Donetsk province. Its fall would open the way for Ukrainian forces to launch attacks on territory Russia now aims to annex.

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The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament has said the chamber could consider merging the four regions on October 4, three days before Putin’s 70th birthday.

Nuclear umbrella

All four regions will come under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once formally incorporated into Russia, Russian government officials have said.

In a series of calls with foreign leaders, including Britain, Canada, Germany and Turkey, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has sought to rally international support against the annexation.

“Thank you all for your clear and unequivocal support. Thank you all for understanding our position,” Zelensky said in a late-night video address on Tuesday.

The United States unveiled a $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine, including 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, accompanying ammunition, various types of anti-drone systems and radar systems. The announcement brings US defense assistance to $16.2 billion.

The United States has also said it will impose new sanctions on Russia over the referendum and the European Union is expected to back new sanctions against Russia in the coming days.

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Report by Reuters Bureau; By Andrew Osborne; Editing by Peter Graf

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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