Courtesy: Dawn News/ Agencies
• Ukraine seeks accelerated accession to Nato
• US seeks to slap severe sanctions on Moscow
• Putin says West ready to step over everything to preserve neo-colonialism
MOSCOW: Despite warnings from the West and the United Nations Secretary-General, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed treaties to annex four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia — at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin.
The development came on the day when Kyiv formally requested fast-track Nato membership. “We have already proven our compatibility with Alliance standards… We are taking a decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to Nato,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video statement.
At the televised ceremony to formalise the annexation, Putin joined hands with the Moscow-installed heads of the regions on a stage in front of the Russian elite and chanted alongside them “Russia! Russia!”.
He said people of the regions had made a “univocal choice” to join Russia after referendums. “I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in the Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia (regions) are becoming our citizens forever,” he said.
President Putin then called on the Kyiv regime to immediately stop fighting and stop all hostilities… and return to the negotiating table.
Rejecting media report about Russia aiming for Soviet Union restoration, Putin said Russia was ‘not striving’ for return of Soviet Union. “The USSR is no more. We can’t bring the past back. And Russia doesn’t need it anymore. We are not striving towards that,” he said.
In his speech, Putin also claimed the West wanted to see Russia as a “colony”. He said, “It is out of greed, with the aim of maintaining its unlimited power. These are the real reasons for this hybrid war that the West is waging against us… They want to make us into a colony,” Putin said in televised remarks.
“The West is ready to step over everything to preserve the neo-colonial system, which allows it to parasitise, and, in fact, plunder the whole world,” Putin said, adding that it was “critical for them that all countries surrender their sovereignty to the United States”.
Swift, severe sanctions on Russia
In response to what US President Joe Biden called Moscow’s “fraudulent” claim to have annexed four Ukrainian regions, the United States announced “severe” new sanctions on Moscow. “The United States is imposing swift and severe costs on Russia,” the White House said in a statement.
It also announced that G7 allies support imposing “costs” on any country that backs the Kremlin’s attempt to incorporate the Ukrainian regions.
In a statement, Biden said, “The United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere.”
“The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders” he continued.
UN chief’s warning
The UN Secretary-General earlier warned that if Russia moved ahead with its plans to annex the four Ukrainian regions, it would mark a “dangerous escalation” that would jeopardize the prospects for peace in the region. “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,” he said.
However, Russia’s mission to the UN accused Mr Guterres of violating the UN Charter with his remarks.
Russia vetoes UNSC resolution
Russia on Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution introduced by the United States and Albania condemning Moscow’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine, and China chose to abstain from the vote. The resolution called on member states not to recognize any altered status of Ukraine and obliged Russia to withdraw its troops. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier said that if the resolution failed, Washington would look to the UN General Assembly, the majority of which voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
‘West switched to sabotage’
Russian President, however, accused the West of organising blasts that resulted in multiple gas leaks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Europe. “Sanctions are not enough for the West, they have switched to sabotage. Unbelievable, but it is a fact!” Putin said during his televised speech.
“By organising explosions on the Nord Stream international gas pipelines that run along the bottom of the Baltic Sea they actually started destroying European energy infrastructure,” Putin said.
Unexplained gas leaks, preceded by two explosions, occurred on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines on Monday. Moscow and Washington both denied involvement in the incident
Meanwhile, 25 people died and 28 were wounded after Russian forces shelled a civilian humanitarian convoy in the southern Ukraine region of Zaporizhzhia, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on Telegram.