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Signing ceremony with Putin: annexation of four Ukrainian regions planned for Friday

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After the controversial “referendums” in four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine, Russia wants to annex the areas as early as Friday. At a ceremony at noon in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin, the agreements on the admission of the regions are to be signed, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on Thursday. Putin will give a “comprehensive speech”.

In the “referendums” in the Luhansk, Donzek, Zaporizhia and Cherson regions, which the West criticized as sham referendums, overwhelming majorities are said to have spoken out in favor of the annexation, according to the separatists there.

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The separatist chiefs of the four regions have meanwhile arrived in Moscow to complete the annexation, according to Russian news agencies. On Wednesday they formally asked Putin to include the regions in the Russian Federation.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at the UN conference where a resolution condemning the “referendums” was tabled.
© AFP / Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP

The first preparations for the planned celebrations surrounding the annexation were made in the Russian capital. The authorities announced the closure of streets in the center, especially around Red Square. According to Russian media reports, a concert is to take place not far from the Kremlin, at which Putin could also make a public appearance.

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Western governments have repeatedly stated that they will never recognize the results of the so-called referendums. They also warned Putin against using nuclear weapons. Putin had previously indirectly threatened to defend the four regions with nuclear weapons if necessary.

Members of the electoral commission start counting the ballot papers.
Members of the electoral commission start counting the ballot papers.
© REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko / ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) renewed her criticism of the “referendums” on Thursday. People were “taken from their homes or their jobs” at gunpoint “to cast votes in glass ballot boxes,” she said in Berlin. “This is the opposite of free and fair elections.”

Ukraine cannot and will not tolerate attempts by Russia to take any part of our land.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

After the “referendums”, Kyiv had called for further western sanctions against Russia and additional arms deliveries. “Ukraine cannot and will not tolerate any attempts by Russia to appropriate any part of our land,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday evening.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called the Russian annexation ceremony scheduled for Friday a “Kremlin freak show.” The event makes no legal sense, writes Mykhailo Podoljak on Twitter. “Non-existent entities cannot become part of a country that is falling apart.”

The four regions form an important land corridor between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, annexed in 2014. Together with Crimea, they make up around 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory.

In a telephone call with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on Wednesday, Selenskyj renewed his demand for arms deliveries. He emphasized “that we are waiting for a missile defense system from Germany,” said the Ukrainian President. He was Germany “grateful for the willingness to help with the air defense”.

About a month ago, Kyiv launched a counteroffensive in the east and south of the country. The advance of the Ukrainian troops prompted Moscow to press ahead with the organization of the so-called referendums and to mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists in a hurry.

Konstantin Ivashchenko, former executive director of the Azovmash plant and designated pro-Russian mayor of Mariupol, visits a polling station.
Konstantin Ivashchenko, former executive director of the Azovmash plant and designated pro-Russian mayor of Mariupol, visits a polling station.
© STRINGER/AFP / stringer

For now, the Ukrainian army seems focused on recapturing Lyman, a key rail junction in the Donetsk region. The Ukrainian troops have not commented on the ongoing operations, but pro-Kremlin authorities in the region have acknowledged difficult fighting.

“The enemy regularly launches attempts to encircle the city,” senior Donetsk official Alexei Nikonorov said on Russian television. According to the US research center Institute for the Study of War, after recapturing Lyman, Ukraine could advance further in both Donetsk and Luhansk.

Numerous Russians have already left the country since the partial mobilization by Moscow. Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko urged the Russian men to stay. They should “vote their opinion on the war and demand that the Russian government stop the war,” he told Bild TV. In Russia, too, “politicians are dependent on their population”. (AFP)

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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