Moscow: Russia vowed to go ahead with the annexation of parts of Ukraine that its troops currently control, after voting in the region, putting the Kremlin on a fresh collision course with the US and its allies.
Russia will sign treaties to absorb the four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine at a Kremlin ceremony on Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call Thursday. Putin will also make an address to legislators and other officials, he said.
Authorities are planning a Red Square concert to celebrate Friday evening, though Peskov declined to comment on whether Putin will attend. The final formalities of annexation are expected to be completed next week after legislative ratification.
Boosting pressure on Kyiv and its allies, Putin has threatened to use “all the means at our disposal” to defend Russia, a signal he may use nuclear weapons to defend the lands he’s annexing. This week, Moscow threatened to cut off the last link supplying its gas to western Europe ahead of winter.
Ukraine and its allies rejected the annexations, pledging to continue weapons supplies to Kyiv, which has said it will press its counteroffensive aimed at retaking the territories.
Ukrainian forces are now closing on the strategic city of Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region, one of the four being annexed. Fighting is raging in all areas which Russia occupies. There’s been a significant increase in people leaving for Russia as Ukraine’s military advances in the last Russian-held areas of Kharkiv region, a Moscow-backed official in neighbouring Luhansk told Rossiya 24 TV on Thursday.