Russia to annex 4 Ukrainian regions
Moscow, Sep 30: During an event to be held Friday at the Kremlin, Russia will annex four occupied regions of Ukraine in an act condemned by the global community and in violation of international law.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to announce the incorporation of the four Russian-occupied regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia — during a ceremony that, according to Moscow, will see the Ukrainian regions become part of the Russian Federation.
Putin on Thursday signed decrees recognizing the supposed independence of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, mirroring a decree signed in February regarding the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
"I order the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence" of the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, situated in southern Ukraine, Putin said in the decrees.
The four territories create a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula which was illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014 in a similar process.
So-called referendums were hastily held in recent days amid an effective Ukrainian counteroffensive that has seen Russian forces pushed back in the east.
Russia's illegal annexation plan condemned
Moscow's plans have been widely condemned with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slamming the annexation scheme as "a dangerous escalation" that "has no place in the modern world."
US President Joe Biden said Thursday that "the United States will never, never, never" recognize Russia's claims on sovereign Ukraine territory.
Both German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock sharply condemned the so-called referendums in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.
During these "sham referendums," Baerbock said "people were taken out of their homes or from their jobs" at gunpoint "to cast votes in glass ballot boxes."
"This is the opposite of free and fair elections," she added.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will on Friday convene an "urgent" meeting of his national security council according to his presidential spokesman.
The UN Security Council will vote on a resolution on Friday condemning the referendums, although Moscow's veto power will ensure it has no chance of being passed.
Russia's attempt to bolster forces
As Moscow looks to carve out more Ukrainian territory it is also trying to bolster its forces with a partial mobilization order involving 300 thousand reservists — a move which has caused a flood of Russian men to flee to neighboring countries.
According to British military intelligence, the number of Russian military-age men fleeing "likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force Russia fielded in February 2022."
Amid domestic criticism, Putin told Russia's Security Council on Thursday that errors had been made in the mobilization.
Putin said Russian men mistakenly called up should be sent home and that only reservists with proper military training and specialties should be called to serve.