In his speech in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the formal annexation of Ukraine’s Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Luhansk regions and declared these as four new regions of the Russian Federation.
At the signing ceremony attended by representatives appointed by Moscow to these regions, Putin described the joining of the four regions to Russia as “the decision of millions of people” and called on Ukraine to “stop the war” for the war he started:
“I want the authorities in Kiev and their true rulers in the West to hear and remember me. The peoples of Luhanks, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia become our citizens. Forever.
“We call on the Kyiv regime to end hostilities and the war they started in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this, but we will not discuss the decision of the peoples of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson. Russia will not betray these people.”
It did not take long to respond to Putin’s words from Kiev. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukraine has applied for accelerated NATO membership.
Zelenskiy also said that Ukraine is ready for negotiations with Russia, but that they will do so only “with another Russian president”.
In the controversial referendums held last week in four regions occupied by Russia in eastern and southern Ukraine, the vast majority voted to join Russia.
Ukraine and its Western allies described these referendums as “fake” and declared that they would not recognize Russia’s annexation decision. For this reason, the votes did not take place under the supervision of international observers.
Stating that the people living in the four regions have made their decisions, Putin said, “The results are clear” and said that this is their “most natural right”; He added that he is confident that the Federal Assembly will support the four new regions of the Russian Federation.
Emphasis on ‘nuclear precedent’
BBC Moscow Editor Steve Rosenberg noted that in Putin’s speech, a palpable grudge against the West came to the fore.
Rosenberg evaluated the second important point in the same speech that Putin said that the USA set a “precedent” with the use of nuclear weapons against Japan in the Second World War.
“The United States is the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and set a precedent,” said Putin.
Defending that Russia’s past generations are fighting for these lands, Putin said that he wants everyone in Kyiv and the West to hear that those living in these regions will be Russian citizens forever, and that the authorities in Kiev “must respect this will that has been put forth.”
Putin promised that Russia will protect its lands with all its might, rebuilding destroyed villages and towns, infrastructure, health and education “to provide a safe life for the people”.
The Russian leader repeated allegations that the West has tried to bring Russia to its knees since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
New sanctions against the annexation decision
US President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s annexation of the four regions of Ukraine as a “fake” attempt and emphasized that it was against international law.
“Russia violates international law, tramples on the United Nations Charter and disrespects other peaceful nations,” Biden said in his statement on the subject.
Biden said the US will always base Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders” on it.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that they will impose visa restrictions on 910 people from the Russian and Belarusian armies associated with the annexation decision. At the same time, it was announced that the export of critical materials used in many fields in Russia was also included in the scope of sanctions.
The European Council, made up of European Union leaders, stated that it “strongly condemned and rejected” the annexation and said it would have no legal effect.
Britain also participated in the US’s decision to restrict exports, following Moscow’s final annexation decision; He also announced that he imposed an asset freeze and a travel ban on Elvira Nabiullin, the Governor of the Central Bank of Russia.
The difference between occupation and annexation
Russia, which started to invade Ukraine on February 4, soon took control of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east of the country and Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south.
Annexation means that a country takes a piece of land under its sovereignty and incorporates it into its borders and directly administers it. This can often be through military, diplomatic or economic coercion. The annexing state has full political authority here and takes control through direct administration or appointment.
Occupation, on the other hand, means that the army of one state seizes the territory of another state and establishes political authority there by force. The occupation usually takes a certain period of time and is taken back by the other country; result in annexation or withdrawal.