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ViewsEditorialPutin declares people of 4 parts of Ukraine 'our citizens for ever'

Putin declares people of 4 parts of Ukraine ‘our citizens for ever’

President of Russia Vladimir Putin today announced there are “four new regions of Russia” as he announced the formal annexation of territories Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk that were parts of Ukraine. Moscow partially seized the four regions with an overwhelming Eastern Slavic population, an ethnicity Russians share, during a seven-month conflict with Ukraine. 

Russia declared the annexations after holding what it called referenda in occupied areas of Ukraine. The US-led West and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and unrepresentative.

Putin warned the West that the people of the four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions were "our citizens forever". "I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever," Putin said, asserting that they had made a "unambiguous choice" to join Russia.

Further, Putin urged Ukraine to engage in talks to end the so-far seven-month-long conflict that had started on 24 February when the Russian leader ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. He said Ukrainian authorities should “treat … with respect” the lopsided results of the Moscow-managed votes and warned sternly that Russia would never surrender control of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Both houses of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament will meet next week to approve the treaties for the regions to join Russia, sending them to Putin for his approval.

Ukrainian officials dismissed Putin's remarks, saying the future of Ukraine was being decided on the battlefields of Ukraine. “We continue to work and liberate Ukrainian territories. And we don’t pay attention to those whose time to drink pills has come," Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president's office, said. "The army is working, Ukraine is united. Only moving forward.”

The event in the Kremlin’s opulent white-and- George’s Hall was organised for Putin and the heads of the four regions of Ukraine to sign treaties for the areas to join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the seven-month conflict.

Moscow has been backing the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine since the declaration of their independence in 2014, weeks after the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Russia had captured the southern Kherson region and a part of the neighboring Zaporizhzhia soon after Putin sent troops into Ukraine.

Putin and his lieutenants have openly warned Ukraine against pressing an offensive to reclaim the regions, saying Russia would view it as an act of aggression against its sovereign territory and wouldn’t hesitate to use “all means available” in retaliation, a reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

The West sees the Kremlin-organised votes in Ukraine and the nuclear warning as Putin's attempt to avoid more 'defeats' in Ukraine that could threaten his 22-year rule. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said, meanwhile, the annexation was illegal and that occupied would remain part of Ukraine. "The illegal annexation proclaimed by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin won't change anything," von der Leyen said on Twitter. "All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation," von der Leyen wrote.

— With inputs from Reuters, AP and AFP

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Anoop Verma
Anoop Verma


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