Kyiv: Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a Kremlin ceremony Friday to start the process of absorbing parts of Ukraine into Russia.
Putin said that he would sign laws to annex them despite international condemnation and protect the newly incorporated regions using all available means.
The annexation ceremony in the Kremlin’s opulent white-and-gold St. George’s Hall was organised for Putin and the heads of the four regions of Ukraine to sign treaties for the areas to join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the seven-month conflict.
At the beginning of the event, Putin urged Ukraine to sit down for talks but warned that Moscow would not give up the newly incorporated regions. The ceremony comes three days after the completion of Kremlin-orchestrated referendums on joining Russia that were dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a bare-faced land grab, held at gunpoint and based on lies.
Both houses of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament will meet next week to rubber-stamp the treaties for the regions to join Russia, sending them to Putin for his approval.
Putin and his lieutenants have bluntly warned Ukraine against pressing an offensive to reclaim the regions, saying Russia would view it as an act of aggression against its sovereign territory and wouldn’t hesitate to use all means available in retaliation, a reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
The Kremlin-organised votes in Ukraine and the nuclear warning are an attempt by Putin to avoid more defeats in Ukraine that could threaten his 22-year rule. Russia controls most of the Luhansk and Kherson regions, about 60% of the Donetsk region and a large chunk of the Zaporizhzhia region where it took control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.