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Defiant Putin proclaims Ukrainian annexation as military setback looms

Published 09/29/2022, 05:31 PM
Updated 09/30/2022, 05:07 PM
© Reuters. A view shows a screen, set up ahead of an expected ceremony and concert to declare four Ukraine's self-proclaimed regions part of Russia following recent referendums, near St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower in central Moscow, Russia S

By Jonathan Landay

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) -A defiant Vladimir Putin proclaimed Russia's annexation of a swathe of Ukraine in a pomp-filled Kremlin ceremony, promising Moscow would triumph in its "special military operation" even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.

The proclamation of Russian rule over 15% of Ukraine - the biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two - was roundly rejected by Ukraine and Western countries as illegal. The United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy said his country had submitted a fast track application to join the NATO military alliance and that he would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was still president.

Putin's proclamation coincided with Russian forces in one of the four regions being annexed facing encirclement by Ukrainian troops, showing how tenuous Russia's grip is on some of territory it is claiming.

In one of his toughest anti-American speeches in more than two decades in power, Putin signalled he was ready to continue what he called a battle for a "greater historical Russia", slammed the West as out to destroy Russia and, without evidence, accused Washington and its allies of blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

But U.S. President Joe Biden said it "was a deliberate act of sabotage and now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies," adding that Washington and its allies would send divers to find out what happened.

The four Ukrainian regions - Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia - that Putin said Russia was absorbing had made a historic choice, Putin said.

"They have made a choice to be with their people, their motherland, to live with its fate, and to triumph with it. Truth is on our side. Russia is with us!" Putin told his country's political elite, who had gathered in one of the Kremlin's grandest halls to watch him sign the annexation documents.

Russia organised so-called referendums, which were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.

"We will defend our land with all our strength and all our means," he added, calling on "the Kyiv regime to immediately cease hostilities and return to the negotiation table".

UKRAINE NATO BID

In Ukraine, Zelenskiy said he was only ready for peace talks if and when Russia had a new president.

He also announced that Ukraine was formally applying for fast-track membership of NATO, something Moscow fiercely opposes, and accused Russia of redrawing borders "using murder, blackmail, mistreatment and lies".

He said, however, that Kyiv remained committed to the idea of co-existence with Russia "on equal, honest, dignified and fair conditions".

"Clearly, with this Russian president it is impossible. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia," Zelenskiy said.

Putin said the United States had set a precedent when it had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, while stopping short of issuing new nuclear warnings against Ukraine himself, something he has done more than once in recent weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had not yet seen Russia take any action that suggested it was contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, despite what he called Putin's "loose talk."

The annexation ceremony culminated in Putin, 69, chanting "Russia! Russia!" as he clasped the hands of the Russian-backed officials he wants to run the annexed regions.

NEW SANCTIONS

Biden said new U.S. sanctions would hurt those who provided political or economic support to the annexation drive.

"We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable," Biden said in a statement, promising to continue to supply Ukraine with equipment to defend itself.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg accused Putin of provoking "the most serious escalation" of the war since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24, but said he would not succeed in deterring the alliance from supporting Kyiv.

A resolution introduced by the United States and Albania at the United Nations Security Council condemning Russia's proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine was rejected on Friday after Russia exercised its veto.

Blinken earlier on Friday promised that should Russia block the resolution, Washington would ask the 193-member U.N. General Assembly to condemn the declared annexation and referendums.

In eastern Donetsk region, Russia's garrison in the town of Lyman was in serious trouble with reports from both sides saying Russian forces were nearly surrounded.

Ukraine said it had all the supply routes to the Russian stronghold in the crosshairs of its artillery in the east, and told Moscow it would have to appeal to Kyiv if it wanted its forces to be allowed out.

The encirclement could leave Ukrainian forces an open path to seize more territory in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, captured earlier in some of the war's bitterest fighting.

"We have significant results in the east of our country ... everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman," Zelenskiy said in a Friday night video address.

The war's brutality was further hammered home just hours before Putin's speech when missiles struck a convoy of civilian cars preparing to cross the frontline from Ukrainian-held territory in Zaporozhzhia province.

© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Denis Pushilin, Leonid Pasechnik, Vladimir Saldo, Yevgeny Balitsky, who are the Russian-installed leaders in Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, attend a ceremony to declare the annexation of the Russian-controlled territories of four Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, after holding what Russian authorities called referendums in the occupied areas of Ukraine that were condemned by Kyiv and governments worldwide, in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

Reuters saw a dozen bodies amid blasted cars in a scene of carnage. Ukraine said 30 people had been killed and almost 100 wounded.

Ukrainian officials called it a deliberate Russian attempt to sever the last links across the front. Moscow blamed the Ukrainians.

Latest comments

Who is this Katerinichev fellow I'm hearing about?
Looks like the Russians are winning. Once the Russians mobilize their additional forces how long will Ukraine last? Thats the million dollar question!
They will win off course you are musliiiim they hate the west but why are you living here in the vest
Yes, they are winning the retreat. The results of poorly trained and ill-equipped men being thrown into a war for which they have no moral justification are predictable.
He should step down and say i am gayy and i have started a war ,a crazy one i am sick and want some help, i know if i was a animal i will be killed please shoot me
Mr Putin should step down world need Peace not War
He is a catastrophe to the world and so are all his supporters there are getting paid to give him applause shame on the Russians people
anyone ever wonder how the world might end... well here you go. Putins "justification" to start throwing some nukes in Ukraine war and how that can spiral after.
He is a catastrophe to the world and so are all his supporters there are getting paid to give him applause shame on the Russians people
Loss of life is only for Ukrainians..... No Nato membership assurances from US or EU (even accelaerated or otherwise).... No military support via boots on ground.... Would end up a war-torn wasteland irrespective of who wins
the Russians have lost or injured as many As +80,000 military personal....
Please don't interrupt the sleepwalkers with facts.
who thinks tektrader, brad, maximus and first are one pathetic person talking to himself on multiple accounts ?
Who is this Katerinichev fellow I'm hearing about?
for Russia there is nothing to bless....
jack...its to late, Russia has already sold it's soul to Putin and his form of fascism.....
carlos, carlos, carlos,... preoccupation with gayness is suggesting you have a serious problem with your sexuality... I was just stating one fact about Putin that was well known to American intelligence officers at the time. your acting like a man who is in the closet. perhaps some consulting would help.
GOD BLESS AMERICA AND RUSSIA
carlos, carlos, carlos,... preoccupation with gayness is suggesting you have a serious problem with your sexuality... I was just stating one fact about Putin that was well known to American intelligence officers at the time. your acting like a man who is in the closet. perhaps some consulting would help.
if Russia would surrender, maybe we would get a temporary pop in the markets.
puketin just signed his own death warrant
Look at him he is homooo
when I was in Berlin Putin had a reputation for frequenting gay brothels when he was stationed there as a kgb official.
Yes look at him a slimy one
Oh yeah he is a known tube steak fiend. He cant get enough of the fellas.
And Putin has a pp tape on Don!
More fake news from Reuters. Accused the US "without evidence". How about Sleepy Joe standing at the podium months ago threatening to fo just that?
more twested misinformation from Gary....
  Gary is getting lazy; going for no information rather than misinformation.
first last....good point....
according to Putin, it's about Russian dominating and conquering eastern Europe and creating a new Russian Empire.
It's about Putin wanting to go to his deathbed feeling like he's accomplished something and got even and will be remembered.
Look at putin he behaves like a homooo ??? Right
I understand the Russian underground is already planning assassinations against the Russian elites that support Putin's genocidal war in Ukraine. so let the people's revolution begin. good by Putin, your special day is coming to you and your fifty little mafia.
or bratva
just to prove to the filth that runs Russia they can't get away with this major rip off. the Ukrainians will be sending another 30thousand young Russian soldiers back in bodybags.
It a war to keep the dollar dominant
It's a war Putin intended to increase his dominance.
Its about gas and oil. US does not want Russia controlling EU energy flow. Now thst the pipeline is gone EU will need US energy even more.
according to Putin, it's about Russian dominating and conquering eastern Europe and creating a new Russian Empire.
Russia does not want to sell energy to rest of Europe.  If that hurts Russia, it accepts that since Russian elites are too rich to be affected and it thinks others will be hurt more.
And we should remember who supports then…. China, they want to be respected but are unwilling to act honorable. They dont make anythibg that cannot be made elsewhere. A giant on clay feet
this illegal landgrab at gun point will never be recognised by the rest of the world. putler is a rambling and angry little man who will meet his end soon enough
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