Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has taken a dangerous and unpredictable turn after NATO vowed to help Volodymyr Zelensky’s Government recapture the regions illegally annexed by Russia – even after Moscow’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons to defend them.
During a lavish ceremony inside the Kremlin yesterday, Putin blamed the ‘satanic’ West for the conflict in Ukraine and warned that his regime would use ‘all means’ to defend the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions stolen by Russia in the biggest military land grab in Europe since the Second World War.
The annexation brought the regions under Russia’s formal control, giving Moscow licence to use nuclear weapons to defend them.
Under an amendment to the Russian constitution made in 2020, Putin and his predecessors are forbidden from ceding any territory once acquired – meaning the annexation has become irreversible unless Ukraine can successfully recapture the stolen land. Even a partial withdrawal as part of a future peace deal with Kyiv will become impossible.
In response to Russia’s unceasing aggression, Ukraine dramatically applied for NATO membership – while the military alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg vowed that the West would not be deterred by Putin’s nuclear threats.
Vowing that NATO’s support for Kyiv was ‘unwavering’, he added: ‘We remain resolute in providing support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s aggression… For as long as it takes.’
Ukraine becoming a member has been thought all but impossible, due to its proximity to Russia. But since the invasion began, two of its neighbours, Sweden and Finland, have sought to become members and Zelensky may hope long-held views about European stability could now be reconfigured to admit his nation.
The US and its allies hit back at Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, slapping sanctions on more than 1,000 people and companies including arms supply networks as Joe Biden warned Putin he can’t ‘get away with’ seizing Ukrainian land.
As the Ukraine war lurched into its latest terrifying phase:
- Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Moscow’s annexation of parts of Ukraine. China and India chose to abstain from the vote;
- Zelensky said Ukraine had achieved ‘significant results’ in the east and mentioned Lyman, a Russian-occupied stronghold that pro-Moscow forces are struggling to hold;
- Ukraine said it had all the supply routes to the Russian stronghold of Lyman in the crosshairs of its artillery in the east;
- At least 30 civilians were killed and almost 100 wounded in what Kyiv said was a cynical Russian missile strike on a convoy of civilian cars in southern Ukraine;
- The cause of damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea has not yet been solved. Sweden’s coastguard said it found a fourth leak;
- Putin blamed the US and its allies for blowing up the undersea pipelines.
Putin is seen on a screen set at Red Square as he addresses a rally celebrating the annexation of four regions of Ukraine
In response to Russia’s unceasing aggression, Ukraine dramatically applied for NATO membership – while the military alliance’s NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg vowed that the West would not be deterred by Putin’s nuclear threats
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Denis Pushilin and Vladimir Saldo in Moscow’s Red Square
Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen set at Red Square as he addresses a rally and a concert in Moscow
Vladimir Putin speaks as Leonid Pasechnik, leader of self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, left, Denis Pushilin, leader of self-proclaimed of the Donetsk People’s Republic, second left, Moscow-appointed head of Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo, second right, and Moscow-appointed head of Zaporizhzhia region Yevgeny Balitsky, right, stand near him
People holding Russian flags gather at Red Square
Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow’s Red Square while Leonid Pasechnik and Denis Pushilin stand near him
Putin greets Ukrainian separatist and poet Bogdana Neshcheryak during the concert
Russians gather to celebrate after a ceremony to sign treaties on new territories’ accession to Russia
Putin boasts ‘victory will be ours’ seven months into his failing Ukraine invasion as he leads chants of ‘Russia!’ at huge Moscow Red Square rally
An increasingly unhinged Vladimir Putin ludicrously boasted ‘victory will be ours’ seven months into his squalid invasion of Ukraine after the Russian tyrant illegally annexed four territories from Kyiv in the biggest military land grab since the Second World War.
The warmonger told thousands of flag-waving Russians gathered outside the gates of the Kremlin for a celebratory concert in Moscow’s Red Square that people in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions had chosen to rejoin their ‘historic motherland’ – after his regime staged fake referendums there and rigged the outcomes at gunpoint.
Flanked by the leaders of their Russian-backed administrations as the multi-coloured spires of the 16th century St Basil’s Cathedral loomed in the background, Putin vowed that Moscow would do everything to support the newly annexed regions, boost their security and rebuild their economies.
He then proclaimed: ‘Welcome home!’, before prompting chants of ‘Russia! Russia!’ from the enormous crowd gathered in the vast square.
Huge video screens showed Putin leading the spectators in three cheers of ‘Hurrah’ for the annexed territories, followed by a rendition of the national anthem. Many in the crowd of thousands waved Russian flags as entertainers from across Russia and occupied parts of Ukraine performed patriotic songs. Russian media reports said that employees of state-run companies and institutions were told to attend, and that students were allowed to skip classes,
It comes after a desperate and erratic Putin snarled that the four occupied Ukrainian regions would remain part of Russia ‘forever’ for 40 minutes during an official ceremony where he seized the territories – before launching into a rant about Western ‘Satanism’ and colonialism.
At his signing ceremony in the Kremlin’s ornate St George’s Hall, Putin accused the West of fueling the hostilities as part of what he called a plan to turn Russia into a ‘colony’ and a ‘crowd of soulless slaves.’ The hardening of his position, in the conflict that has killed and wounded tens of thousands of people, further raised tensions already at levels unseen since the Cold War.
In his unhinged address, Putin insisted that Ukraine must treat the Kremlin-managed votes ‘with respect’ – before accusing the US and its allies of seeking to destroy Russia. His speech was littered with bizarre references ranging from Britain’s Opium Wars in China in the 19th century to gender reassignment – before ominously threatening to use nuclear weapons in the event of an attack on Russia, including the four newly annexed Ukrainian territories.
The Russian annexation, though expected, escalated an already heated conflict that’s become fraught with potential nuclear implications.
Biden said his administration would support any effort by Ukraine to retake the annexed territories by force, setting the stage for further hostilities.
‘America and its allies are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats,’ Biden told reporters. He added that Putin ‘can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it.’
Putin’s announcement that Russia is incorporating four Ukrainian cities and areas was not unexpected following referendums this week that the West had denounced as shams. And the US and Western allies had previewed what their reaction would be.
But the developments dramatically increased tensions to a point not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago during the Cold War.
Biden had spoken out against the annexation plans last week at the UN General Assembly, where a vast majority of other members also voiced support for respecting the territorial integrity of all nations On Friday, he used the moment to reiterate that the US and NATO allies would not allow Russia to attack any of the nearby NATO members without facing a strong military response.
‘America is fully prepared, prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory. Every single inch,’ Biden said. ‘And so, Mr Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.’
While the Biden administration has identified the suppliers of Russia’s weapons and battlefield high-tech as a priority, many of Friday’s other sanctions were in line with penalties already enacted on thousands of Russian individuals and companies, and may have comparatively little impact on the war effort. The administration hopes they will serve to further undermine support for Putin’s invasion among Russia’s elite.
Meanwhile, the US and its European allies are rushing to complete agreement on a measure they hope will do more to damage Russia’s economy: a cap on Russia’s maritime oil exports that would undermine the prices Putin can demand for his country’s oil globally.
For now, Biden said the new US financial penalties, similar to those coming from like-minded countries, will impose severe costs on people and companies ‘that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.’ The sanctions will apply to countries, people or firms that support or do business with Russia-backed authorities in the newly annexed areas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, echoing Biden, said the US ‘unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. … This is a clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.’
‘No one is fooled by what Moscow has done,’ Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference with Canada’s visiting foreign minister. ‘The entire process around these sham referenda was a complete farce. This territory is and will remain Ukraine, and Ukraine has every right to defend its land, to defend its people and to take back the territory that Russia has seized from it.’
This suggests the US will support the Ukrainians with weapons and ammunition to help them with military action to retake the annexed areas. The US has warned Ukraine in the past not to use American weapons against Russian territory.
Blinken also spoke out against Putin’s nuclear threats..
‘This kind of loose talk about nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility, and it’s something that we take very seriously,’ he said. ‘To date’ he said, the US has not seen that ‘Russia is actually doing anything that suggests they are contemplating the use of nuclear weapons.’
‘I can just tell you that we plan against every possible scenario, including this one.’
Biden also pushed back against Putin’s comments on Friday in which he accused the West of sabotaging Russia-built natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Nordic nations said the undersea blasts that damaged the pipelines this week and have led to huge methane leaks involved several hundred pounds of explosives.
The president said the US and allies are still working to determine who was responsible for the blasts, but excoriated Putin over his accusation.
‘Let me say this, it was a deliberate act of sabotage,’ Biden said. ‘And now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies.’
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that ‘not many’ countries have the ability to carry out such an attack on the pipelines. He stopped short of charging Russia was responsible but made clear the U.S. is suspicious that they may be complicit.
People holding Russian flags gather at Red Square
Vladimir Putin speaks during celebrations marking the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia
In the fist row: Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaks as Leonid Pasechnik, leader of self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, left, Denis Pushilin, leader of self-proclaimed of the Donetsk People’s Republic, second left, Moscow-appointed head of Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo, second right, and Moscow-appointed head of Zaporizhzhia region Yevgeny Balitsky, right, stand near him during celebrations marking the annexation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Red Square
TV screens show live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin delivering his speech to people
Russians celebrate after a ceremony to sign treaties on new territories’ accession to Russia
Putin chants ‘Russia’ with the puppet ‘leaders’ of the four Ukrainian regions he now claims are part of his country, vowing to use ‘all forces’ to defend them – raising the fear he will resort to nukes
Vladimir Putin has announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions to Russia during a speech at the Kremlin, in which he also delivered a blistering tirade against the West
Putin officially signs a decree accepting the four occupied regions of Ukraine as new territories of Russia, paving the way for him to escalate his war against his ex-Soviet neighbour
Hiroshima, Goebbels, the Satanic West and sex changes: Putin’s unhinged speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Kremlin after annexing four Ukrainian regions partly occupied by his forces, in which he accused the West of ‘outright Satanism’.
MESSAGE TO KYIV
‘I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me, so that they remember this. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever.
‘We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately end hostilities, end the war that they unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table.’
DEFENDING ‘OUR LAND’
‘We will defend our land with all the powers and means at our disposal.’
NORD STREAM ‘SABOTAGE’
‘Sanctions were not enough for the Anglo-Saxons: they moved on to sabotage. It is hard to believe but it is a fact that they organised the blasts on the Nord Stream international gas pipelines.’
‘The United States is the only country in the world that has twice used nuclear weapons, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and setting a precedent.’
EDUCATION AND GENDER
‘Do we really want, here, in our country, in Russia, instead of ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, to have ‘parent No. 1’, ‘parent No. 2’, ‘No. 3’? Have they gone completely insane? Do we really want … it drilled into children in our schools
‘Russia has done what it frequently does when it is responsible for something, which is make accusations that it was really someone else who did it,’ Sullivan said. ‘We’ve seen this repeatedly over time.’
As for a broader guarantee of protection, Ukraine has sought NATO membership for years but has not yet been admitted due to concerns about its domestic governance. As a result of Russia’s invasion, Finland and Sweden have applied for fast-track admission into the alliance.
The White House said Sullivan had spoken with Stoltenberg to highlight the US and NATO’s ‘firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’
But the Biden administration isn’t embracing Zelensky’s push for an accelerated path to NATO membership. Sullivan said the US was focused on supporting Ukraine through ‘practical on the ground support.’ He added that ‘the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time.’
Earlier, following Putin’s announcement, the White House along with the State, Treasury and Commerce departments had announced the new sanctions in a series of coordinated statements. The sanctions expand on what have been escalating penalties against Russia and its proxies since the invasion began on February 24.
Treasury designated hundreds of members of Russia’s parliament, leaders of the country’s financial and military infrastructure and suppliers for sanctions designations that include asset freezes and bans on Americans doing business with them. The Commerce Department added 57 companies to its list of export control violators, and the State Department added more than 900 people to its visa ban list, making them ineligible for travel to the United States.
Since the start of the invasion, the US and European nations have imposed significant financial penalties on Russia, its leadership and wealthy oligarchs tied to Putin. The allies have gone after the central bank reserves that underpin the Russian economy and have severed many Russian banks from a vital global financial network called SWIFT.
The war is having a devastating impact on the global economy and has contributed to massive disruptions to supplies of energy and food throughout the world. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this week said the global economy is set to lose $2.8trillion in output in 2023 because of the conflict.
Putin appears undeterred. He warned that Russia would never give up the absorbed regions -the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions – and would protect them as part of its sovereign territory.
Both houses of the Duma, Putin’s pupper parliament, will meet next week to approve the treaties for the regions to join Russia.
It comes as Russia on Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution introduced by the United States and Albania condemning Moscow’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine, with Russia’s strategic partner China abstaining from the vote.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield introduced the resolution that called on member states not to recognize any altered status of Ukraine and obliged Russia to withdraw its troops.
She argued in the council’s chamber that the attempted annexation of a sovereign nation’s territory went against the founding principles of the United Nations, and said Putin was celebrating ‘this clear violation of international law’ with a concert held after he proclaimed the annexations on Friday.
Ten nations voted in favor, while China, Gabon, India and Brazil abstained.
‘Not a single country voted with Russia. Not one,’ Thomas-Greenfield told reporters after the meeting, adding that the abstentions ‘clearly were not a defense of Russia.’
Washington would turn to the 193-member UN General Assembly to condemn Russia’s actions, she said.
Russia has been trying to chip away at its international isolation after nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly voted to reprimand Moscow and demand it withdraw its troops within a week of its February 24 invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, who raised his hand to give the only vote against the resolution, argued the regions, where Moscow has seized territory by force and where fighting still rages, chose to be part of Russia. Kyiv and Western leaders denounced the referendums as a sham.
‘There will be no turning back as today’s draft resolution would try to impose,’ Nebenzia said.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya said the single hand raised against the resolution ‘again testified to Russia’s isolation and his desperate attempts to deny reality in our common commitments, starting from the UN charter.’
Britain’s envoy, Barbara Woodward, said Russia had ‘abused its veto to defend its illegal actions’ but said the annexations had ‘no legal effect.’ ‘It is a fantasy,’ she added.
China abstained from the resolution, but raised concerns about ‘a prolonged and expanded crisis’ in Ukraine.
China has been firmly on the fence over the conflict, criticizing Western sanctions against Russia but stopping short of endorsing or assisting in the military campaign, despite the two nations declaring a ‘no-limits’ strategic partnership in February. In a surprise acknowledgement, Russian President Vladimir Putin this month said China’s leader Xi Jinping had concerns about Ukraine.
Beijing’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun argued that while ‘the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be safeguarded,’ countries’ ‘legitimate security concerns’ should also be taken seriously.
A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said China’s abstention showed that Russia’s ‘sabre rattling’ and moves that threatened states’ territorial integrity put China in an ‘uncomfortable position.’