Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed “four new regions of Russia” as he signed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia – on Friday afternoon. The announcement follows illegal referendums in the Russian-occupied territories this week.
In front of a hall of Kremlin officials, Vladimir Putin delivered his speech on Friday afternoon in Moscow to announce a full annexation of the four Ukrainian regions. Ukraine responded shortly after by announcing a formal application for NATO membership.
Putin’s speech was a litany of unfiltered imperialism stuffed with disinformation and far-fetched grievances against Ukraine and mainly the West. He sought to present the annexation as legitimate by a new national law and deliberately misconstrued the UN Charter to invoke the principle of ‘self-determination’.
Annexations are in strict violation of the founding principles of the UN Charter, set out after the Second World War. It is bitterly ironic that Russia's grab on Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia is the biggest annexation in Europe since Hitler.
Distorted vision of Ukraine and the world
Regarding the Donbas, Putin spoke of “victims of inhumane terrorist attacks conducted by the Kyiv regime,” building on the pretext for Russia’s 8-year war in Eastern Ukraine.
“Despite all the difficulties, they have carried their love for Russia. This feeling cannot be exterminated by anyone." Putin’s imperialist vision, steeped in historical revision, was on full display as he claimed that Russia's annexation is the “choice of millions of people” who share a “common history”.
The International Court of Justice rejected Russian claims of genocide towards Russian people shortly after the Russian invasion in February 2022.
With a dose of victimhood not unusual to fascist movements, Putin referenced historical grievances which sought to portray the Soviet era as a period of national "brotherhood" – a claim which holds little credence beyond Kremlin strongholds.
Putin accused the West of operating under a “neo-colonial system” to rob all other countries in the world. “They don’t want to see us as a free society. They want to see us as a crowd of slaves,” he stated to a rapture of applause from Kremlin officials.
“The Western elites have always been like this. They have been colonisers and they remain colonisers. They discriminate and they distinguish between first-class nations and second-class nations,” apparently overlooking Russia's permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, with a power of veto.
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The annexation will surely destabilise the region even more; any Ukrainian attack on the newly annexed territories will be seen as an attack on Russian soil. Some experts even fear that Putin could use this as grounds for a nuclear response.
President Zelenskyy's spokesperson stated that the Ukrainian president did not watch Putin's speech. Yet as a countermove announced a few hours later, he announced Ukraine's official application for NATO membership.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denied that today's move by the Kremlin changes anything.
A statement from the European Council strongly condemned the annexation. “By wilfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, Russia is putting global security at risk.”
The statement highlighted that the Council will never recognise these regions as part of Russia.