Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, announced that he would enact legislation absorbing portions of Ukraine despite international criticism and use “all available means” to preserve the newly merged regions.
In a speech before the signing of a pact to annex four regions of Ukraine to Russia, Putin warned that his nation would never cede the occupied territories and would safeguard them as a part of its sovereign territory.
He called on Ukraine to hold talks to end the conflict, but he warned that Russia would never cede sovereignty of the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.
He said the West instigated the fighting as part of a scheme to subjugate and colonize Russia.
The ceremony occurs three days after the conclusion of Kremlin-organized “referendums” on joining Russia, which Kyiv and the West denounced as a blatant land grab, done under duress and founded on fabrications.
The ceremony was planned for Putin and the leaders of the four regions of Ukraine to sign treaties for the areas to join Russia, in a significant escalation of the seven-month conflict, in the Kremlin’s magnificent white-and-gold St. George’s Hall.
Moscow has supported the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk areas in eastern Ukraine since they proclaimed their independence in 2014, just weeks after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia quickly took control of the southern Kherson area and a portion of the Zaporizhzhia region when Putin launched soldiers into Ukraine on February 24.