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Moscow, Sep 30 (EFE).- Russia on Friday annexed four occupied territories of Ukraine in what president Vladimir Putin called a “liberating mission.”
Putin announced Russia’s illegal expansion during a nationalistic speech at the Kremlin’s grandiose St. George’s Hall.
“We will protect our land using all of our forces and do everything to ensure people’s security,” he told hundreds of members of the Russian political elite during a 38-minute address.
He claimed that the annexation reflected the will of millions of people who voted in a series of hastily organized referendums that have been broadly condemned by the international community.
Putin was joined by the Russian-installed leaders of the regions in question — Donetsk and Luhansk, swathes of which have been under de facto separatist rule since 2014, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, partially occupied by Russia since the invasion this year.
RETURN TO THE MOTHERLAND
“The USSR no longer exists, and the past will not return,” Putin said in his speech leading up to the treaty-signing ceremony. “And Russia doesn’t need it, but there is nothing stronger than the determination of these people to return to their true historical homeland.”
“They will be Russian citizens forever,” he added to applause from the crowd, claiming that Moscow was acting in accordance with the United Nations charter on the right to self-determination.
After signing the decrees along with the Russian-backed leaders of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin; Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik; Kherson, Vladimir Saldo and Zaporizhzhia, Yevhen Balytskyi, the national anthem was played. Putin and the four collaborationist leaders chanted “Russia, Russia, Russia.”
FROM CRIMEA TO NOW
This is the second time Russia has annexed Ukrainian territory in the last eight years after its takeover of Crimea in 2014, which followed the same blueprint involving a referendum shunned by the international community.
None of the four regions absorbed by Russia on Friday are fully under Moscow’s control and fighting with Ukrainian forces is ongoing.
Combined, the territories make up around 15% of Ukrainian land — an area comparable to Portugal or Hungary.
The decision to annex land, which is due to be ratified by lawmakers next week, is a fresh escalation of the war in Ukraine.
Western nations have outright condemned the annexation while even friendly nations, such as China, India, Serbia and Turkey, are unlikely to recognize the Russian expansion.
It also marks a pitch change in the dynamics of the war, with Putin now able to claim that an attack in the region of southeast and east Ukraine is an attack on Russia itself.
During his speech, Putin urged Kyiv back to the negotiating table but made clear that the status of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia was not up for discussion.
He also blamed Ukraine for starting hostilities in 2014, when the war in the Donbas, a collective term for Luhansk and Donetsk, erupted.