UNITED STATES: The US will “never, never, never” recognise Russia’s attempt to annex territory in Ukraine, President Joe Biden has said.
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has escalated to the point where there are now talks of what some say is an illegal and forceful unification of Ukraine’s four critical regions, including Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, into the Russian mainframe.
Amid controversial debates around coerced and “sham” Russian referendums to annex these territories and combine them into Russia, Biden’s comment becomes a direct challenge to Russian influence.
Biden was speaking ahead of a speech on Friday from Vladimir Putin, who is due to declare that the four occupied Ukrainian regions will join Russia.
Apparently, as per Kremlin information, the four regions backed annexation in five-day referendums.
The ballot in these occupied regions has been widely condemned on the global stage as a “sham” and “show trial.”
The US will impose new sanctions on Russia as a result of the annexation.
“The United States, I want to be very clear about this, will never, never, never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” Biden said.
On Thursday, the Russian president signed two decrees recognising Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as two independent territories, paving the way for them to be annexed.
As per Russian state media, the documents are legitimate and valid as the territories can be recognised in accordance with international law and “enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.”
However, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said any annexation of a country’s territory based on the use of force violates the UN Charter and international law. “It is a dangerous escalation that has no place in the modern,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now in hot water as he carefully decides what his next step will be and how to respond to critical questions at an emergency meeting of his national security and defence council on Friday.
Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said “important, fundamental decisions for our country” would be taken but gave no details.
None of the four occupied regions that Russia aims to incorporate are fully under its control. It can only lay claim to 60% of Donetsk while Zaporizhzhia’s regional capital remains in Ukrainian hands.
As Ukrainians scrambled to get their relatives safely out of occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia, missiles hit a civilian convoy of cars on the outskirts of the main city.
The Ukrainian governor said 23 civilians had been killed and another 28 wounded in the Russian attack. Two lines of cars were hit, and the bodies of two women could be seen on the ground.
There are active front lines in all four regions, and Ukraine has successfully encompassed a strategically significant town in Donetsk that they lost during the summer. If Lyman falls, it would mark a dramatic setback for the Russian leader.
In a phone call with Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his opposition to the planned annexation.
He urged his Russian counterpart to give up potential plans of full annexation and introduce peace talks with Ukraine, according to a spokesperson.
Previously, Turkey has brokered peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, which have resulted in a grain deal through the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, Moscow awaited the declaration of complete reunification of these four regions with Russia by setting up giant video screens in the Red Square, with huge banners saying, “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson.”
The coerced amalgamation is a repetition of Russia’s annexation of the southern Crimean Peninsula in 2014, which also followed a discredited referendum. That annexation has never been recognised by the vast majority of the international community, and nor will this one.
Regardless of the West’s condemnation, Russia’s two houses of parliament are set to ratify the move next week.
Putin is hoping that at least partial annexation of parts of Ukraine will be leveraged enough to argue that Russian territory is coming under attack from Western weapons, in the hope that some governments will halt their aid to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Russia staged its “show trial” of five days of self-styled referendum across the four regions last week without prior notice.
While Russia claimed the voting was fair and resulted in a landslide victory in favour of joining Russia, there was no independent monitoring and rumours of forced ballots cast by anxious residents held at Russian gunpoint circulated.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the “pseudo referendums” were worthless, and his adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called them “mass violence.”
“Imagine… there are tanks of the occupying army in people’s houses and apartments who haven’t yet left… military men with automatic weapons are putting them to their faces and saying “Vote!”