JON GAMBRELL and HANNAH ARCHIROW
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed agreements to illegally annex a number of occupied Ukrainian territories, sharply escalating his seven-month invasion. The Ukrainian president instantly responded with an surprising request to hitch the NATO army alliance.
Putin’s land seize and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s signing of what he says is an “expedited” utility for NATO membership have pushed the 2 leaders even sooner on a collision course, elevating fears of a wider battle between Russia and the West.
Putin vowed to guard the newly annexed areas of Ukraine with “all obtainable means”, backed by nuclear threats, on the Kremlin’s signing ceremony, the place he additionally lashed out on the West, accusing the US and its allies of attempting to destroy Russia.
Zelensky then held his personal signing ceremony in Kiev, posting a video of himself placing pen to paper in what he says is a proper request for NATO membership. He referred to as the transfer “our defining step.”
Putin has repeatedly made it clear that any prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of the world’s largest army alliance is one among his purple strains, and it was one of many justifications he gave for his invasion, Europe’s greatest floor struggle since World Battle II.
In his speech, Putin urged Ukraine to take a seat down for peace talks, however instantly insisted that he wouldn’t speak concerning the return of occupied areas. Zelensky mentioned that there shall be no talks with Putin.
“We’re prepared for dialogue with Russia, however … with one other Russian president,” he mentioned.
At his signing ceremony within the Kremlin’s ornate St. George Corridor, Putin accused the West of escalating hostilities in what he mentioned was a plan to show Russia right into a “colony” and a “slave mob.” His hardening of the place in a battle that has killed and injured tens of 1000’s of individuals additional elevated tensions not seen because the Chilly Battle.
The US introduced sanctions towards greater than 1,000 individuals and corporations linked to the Russian invasion, together with the governor of its Central Financial institution.
Relating to Putin’s annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye areas, President Joe Biden mentioned: “Make no mistake: these actions don’t have any legitimacy.”
NATO and the European Union additionally rejected the annexation as unlawful. The 27 EU member states mentioned they’d by no means acknowledge the unlawful referendums organized by Russia “as a pretext for this additional violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
NATO Secretary Normal Jens Stoltenberg referred to as it “the largest try and annex European territory by drive since World Battle II.”
Zelensky vowed to proceed the struggle, ignoring Putin’s warnings that Ukraine mustn’t attempt to get well what it had misplaced.
“Your entire territory of our nation shall be free of this enemy,” the Ukrainian chief mentioned. “Russia already is aware of this. It feels our energy.”
The speedy penalties of “fast-track” NATO utility weren’t instantly clear, because it requires unanimous help from all member states. Nevertheless, the provision of Western weapons to Ukraine has introduced it nearer to the alliance’s orbit.
“De facto, we now have already demonstrated compatibility with alliance requirements,” Zelensky mentioned. “We belief one another, assist one another and defend one another. That is an alliance. “
Putin’s Kremlin ceremony got here three days after Moscow-occupied areas accomplished “referendums” on becoming a member of Russia that Kyiv and the West dismissed as a bare-faced land seize held at gunpoint and based mostly on lies.
In his fiery speech on the ceremony, he insisted that Ukraine ought to deal with the Kremlin-led votes “with respect”.
After the signing ceremony of the accession agreements with Russia, Moscow-appointed leaders of the occupied areas gathered round Putin and all joined arms to chants of “Russia! Russia!” with the viewers.
Putin, nonetheless, obtained indignant, accusing the US and its allies of attempting to destroy Russia. He mentioned the West acted “like parasites” and used its monetary and technological energy “to rob the entire world”.
He portrayed Russia as on a historic mission to reclaim its standing as a post-Soviet superpower and confront Western hegemony, which he noticed as collapsing.
“Historical past has referred to as us to the battlefield to struggle for our individuals, for the good historic Russia, for future generations,” he mentioned.
The separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in jap Ukraine have been supported by Moscow since they declared independence in 2014, weeks after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The southern Kherson area and a part of neighboring Zaporozhye had been seized by Russia quickly after Putin despatched troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Each homes of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament will meet subsequent week to seal the area’s accession agreements with Russia, sending them to Putin for approval.
Putin and his lieutenants have sternly warned Ukraine towards an offensive to retake the areas, saying Russia would view it as an act of aggression, a risk Moscow can again up with the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear warheads.
The unlawful annexation was Putin’s try and keep away from a collection of battlefield defeats that would threaten his 22-year rule. By formalizing Russia’s beneficial properties, at the least on paper, Putin seems to be hoping to scare Ukraine and its Western backers with the prospect of an escalating battle until they again down, which they haven’t proven.
Russia controls most of Luhansk and Kherson areas, about 60% of Donetsk area and far of Zaporozhye area, the place it took management of Europe’s largest nuclear energy plant.
However the Kremlin is on the point of one other bitter battlefield loss because the encirclement of the jap Ukrainian metropolis of Lyman is reported to be imminent. Its restoration might pave the best way for Ukraine to push deep into Luhansk, one of many areas absorbed by Russia.
“It seems to be fairly pathetic. Ukrainians are doing one thing, taking steps in the actual materials world, whereas the Kremlin is constructing some sort of digital actuality that may’t reply to the actual world,” mentioned former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst Abbas Galyamov.
“Folks perceive that politics is now on the battlefield,” he added. “What issues is who strikes ahead and who retreats. On this regard, the Kremlin can not provide the Russians something comforting.
Russia shelled Ukrainian cities with rockets, missiles and suicide drones, reportedly killing 25 individuals and injuring 50 in a single strike, in keeping with the legal professional basic’s workplace. Collectively, the islands fashioned the heaviest barrage in Moscow in latest weeks.
The impression left deep craters and despatched shrapnel tearing via the humanitarian convoy, killing its passengers. Adjoining buildings had been demolished. The our bodies had been coated with rubbish luggage, blankets and one sufferer had a towel soaked in blood.
Analysts have warned that Putin is prone to dip deeper into his dwindling stockpile of precision weapons and step up assaults as a part of a technique to escalate the struggle and undermine Western help.
Ukraine’s counterattack has disadvantaged Moscow of mastery on the battlefield. Its maintain within the Luhansk area seems to be more and more unstable as Ukrainian forces push in with a cane assault on Lyman. Ukraine nonetheless holds a big place within the neighboring Donetsk area as properly.
Within the capital of Zaporozhye area, anti-aircraft missiles, which Russia has used as floor assault weapons, rained down on individuals ready in vehicles to enter Russian-occupied territory so they may carry members of the family again throughout the entrance strains, deputy chief Kirill Tymoshenko mentioned. within the workplace of the President of Ukraine.
Russian-placed officers in Zaporozhye blamed Ukrainian forces, however supplied no proof.
Russian strikes within the metropolis of Dnipro have additionally been reported. The governor of the area, Valentin Reznichenko, mentioned at the least one individual was killed and 5 had been injured.
Ukraine’s air drive mentioned the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa had been utilizing Iranian-supplied suicide drones, which Russia is more and more deploying, apparently to keep away from shedding extra pilots who don’t management Ukraine’s skies.
Ukraine has vowed to retake all occupied territory, and Russia has vowed to defend its beneficial properties, threatening to make use of nuclear weapons and mobilizing a further 300,000 troops, regardless of protests.
This was highlighted by the preventing for Lyman, a key hub for Russian army operations within the Donbass and a claimed prize for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
The Russian-backed chief of Donetsk separatists, Denis Pushilin, mentioned town was “partially surrounded” by Ukrainian forces. Russia’s state information company RIA Novosti quoted him as calling the failure “disturbing information.”
“The Ukrainian armed forces,” he mentioned, “are attempting very exhausting to spoil our vacation.”
Observe AP information on the struggle at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine