“I order the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence” of the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, located in southern Ukraine, Putin said in the decrees, as Russia prepares to formalise the annexation of the two regions, along with Donetsk and Lugansk on Friday.
The two regions are set to be incorporated into Russia along with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk at a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday after hastily-organised referendums in the Russian-occupied regions, which claimed majorities of up to 99 percent in favour of joining Russia. Putin recognised the ‘independence’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in February.
Kyiv said that the annexation votes will not stop their armed forces from trying to retake its illegally stolen land, vowing a ‘harsh’ response. For its part, Russia pledges to defend all its territory including newly annexed regions by all available means, including nuclear weapons.
President Joe Biden pledged that the US will never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s sovereign territory, while United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that if Russia moves ahead with its plans to annex the four Ukrainian regions, it will mark a ‘dangerous escalation’.
It comes amid allegations of sabotage of two Russian pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor that were designed to feed natural gas to Europe.