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Putin to annex seized Ukrainian land, UN warns of 'dangerous escalation'

If Russia moves ahead with its plans to annex four Ukrainian regions, it would mark a 'dangerous escalation' that would jeopardise the prospects for peace in the region, the UN Secretary-General said

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Russia Ukraine Conflict | Vladimir Putin | Germany

Reuters  |  London 



Photo: Bloomberg
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo: Bloomberg)

President will begin formally annexing four Ukrainian regions to Russia on Friday in a move that the United Nations warned would mark a "dangerous escalation" of the conflict and which should be condemned.

Moscow's planned annexation of 15% of Ukraine's territory confirms that Putin is doubling down on his war against Russia's neighbour despite suffering a major military reversal this month.

Ukrainian troops on Thursday were moving to capture the Russian-held eastern town of Lyman, threatening a new setback for Putin's campaign in the Donbas even as he prepares to declare the region part of Russia.

"Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned," United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters.

The planned annexation follows what Kyiv and Western countries say were phoney referendums staged at gunpoint on Russian-held Ukrainian territory, captured illegally in the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy summoned his security and defence chiefs for an emergency meeting to be held on Friday, and promised a robust response to a step he says has killed off chances of reviving peace talks.

The votes "are worthless and do not change reality. The territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored. And our reaction to recognition of the results by Russia will be very harsh," Zelenskiy said in a statement.

Putin's annexation ceremony will be held in one of the Kremlin's grandest halls with the pro-Russian figures Moscow considers to be leaders of the four Ukrainian regions. Russia says the referendums were genuine and showed public support for the move.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said agreements will be signed "with all four territories that held referendums" and Putin would deliver a major speech.

A big concert will be held on Friday on Moscow's Red Square, where a tribune with giant video screens has already been set up, with billboards proclaiming "Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson - Russia!"

Peskov did not say whether Putin would make an appearance at the concert. He did so at a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine's Crimea region.

A political adviser to the Ukrainian president said on Thursday the ceremony "does not make legal sense" and would be a "Kremlin freak show."

Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia's close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognise the move.

Putin publicly backed the annexation plans in a speech last week in which he also announced the call-up of hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists, and warned he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.

With tens of thousands of Russian men fleeing abroad to escape Putin's military call-up, Finland shut one of the few remaining routes to Europe, saying it would no longer let Russians enter by land with EU tourist visas.

The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament has said the chamber could consider the incorporation of the four regions on Oct. 4, three days before Putin's 70th birthday.

What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the war, with its forces routed in recent weeks in Ukraine's northeast.

Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia's main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.

Its fall could open the way for Ukrainian forces to launch attacks on swathes of territory that Russia now aims to annex.

"The situation looks increasingly precarious for Russian forces in Lyman as Ukrainian forces are about to cut them off," Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, said on Twitter.

"Another painful defeat for the Russian invasion forces is looming."

Kyiv has so far held back from disclosing details of the situation in Lyman. Russia's Defence Ministry said a day earlier that a Ukrainian offensive on Lyman had failed, with 70 Ukrainian soldiers killed.

NUCLEAR UMBRELLA

Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow's nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia.

The United States has unveiled a $1.1 billion weapons package for Ukraine that includes 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, accompanying munitions, various types of counter drone systems and radar systems. The announcement brings the U.S. security aid to $16.2 billion.

Mystery continued to swirl over an apparent attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea, built to carry Russian gas to Europe though already shut.

At least three explosions which sent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of methane gas jetting to the surface this week have left the pipes severely damaged, possibly permanently. Sweden's coast guard said it found a fourth leak.

Western countries have called the incidents sabotage while stopping short of openly ascribing blame. Russia, which has denied involvement, said the incidents looked like acts of state-sponsored terrorism and the United States stood to gain.

An EU official said the bloc's leaders would discuss the issue next week, adding that the apparent sabotage had changed the nature of the conflict in Ukraine fundamentally.

may borrow $194 bn for gas price surge

is preparing to borrow as much as €200 billion ($194 billion) to finance a plan to limit the impact of soaring energy costs on Europe’s biggest economy, a move that risks keeping consumption high as shortages loom this winter.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration will redeploy a fund created to help offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and bolster it with additional funds to put a lid on gas prices. The government is also working on measures to rein in electricity costs.

“Prices must go down,” Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin. “To reach this goal, we are opening a big umbrella.”

is especially vulnerable to the surge in energy costs triggered by the war in Ukraine due to a heavy reliance on imports of Russian gas. Higher prices are prompting companies to rein in production and sapping consumer spending power, but containing prices could keep demand high.

The country’s network regulator earlier warned that households and companies used too much gas over the past week as temperatures dropped and said savings of at least 20% are needed to avert a shortage of the fuel this winter.

Fourth leak reported on Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

A fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines has been reported off southern Sweden, the Swedish coast guard said.

“We have leakage at two positions” off Sweden, coast guard spokesperson Mattias Lindholm. There are two more off Denmark, he said.

Two of the leaks are on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that recently stopped supplying gas, while the other two are on Nord Stream 2 that never started operating. Although they were not running, both pipelines were filled with gas, which has escaped and bubbled to the surface.PTI

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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First Published: Thu, September 29 2022. 15:47 IST

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