Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin will formally move to seize four regions of Ukraine on Friday by signing what the Kremlin calls a “treaty of accession.”

The signing ceremony, held at the Grand Kremlin, marked Putin’s attempt to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, although Russia does not have full military or political control over them.

four regions

where to play

referendum

About joining Russia

held

holding area

From Russia –

support

split molecule

since 2014

annexed by Russia

Year 2014

Control area as of September 28

Source: War Institute, AEI’s Critical Threats Program

Ukrainian reclaimed territory

by counterattack

four regions

where to play

referendum

join russia

held

holding area

Russia supports

split molecule

since 2014

annexed by Russia

Year 2014

Control area as of September 28

Source: War Institute, AEI’s Critical Threats Program

Ukrainian reclaimed territory

by counterattack

four regions

where to play

referendum

Held

join russia

holding area

Russia supports

split molecule

since 2014

annexed by Russia

Year 2014

Source: War Institute

The move, in defiance of stern international warnings, including from President Biden, could close the door on diplomacy for years to come and almost certainly ensure a further escalation of the war in Ukraine. Kyiv has insisted it will fight to reclaim all its land, while Western allies have pledged more weapons and economic aid.

Putin’s recent announcement of a partial military mobilization aimed at mobilizing hundreds of thousands of reinforcements to deploy to Ukraine and this week’s sabotage of two Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic have raised concerns that the Russian leader is preparing for a prolonged period. Hybrid conflict with NATO.

Russia has also warned that it could use nuclear weapons to defend the Ukrainian region once it is absorbed by Russia, arguing that it would consider an attack on its forces as an attack on Russian territory. Likewise, Putin could use such an attack to declare martial law and put Russia’s economy and society in a state of total war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign a treaty to annex four regions of Ukraine on September 29, following a referendum criticized by the West. (Video: Reuters)

Putin’s land grab is a blatant violation of international law and will further isolate Russia and trigger new Western sanctions. But Putin still seems hopeful that a prolonged and brutal war will eventually weaken Western support for Ukraine and cut military and economic aid that provides a lifeline for Kyiv.

Russians flee mobilization, leaving everything behind

One of the few remaining viable diplomatic channels is between Russia and Turkey, but even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped facilitate the recent Russia-Ukrainian relationship The exchange of prisoners between the two countries also expressed disapproval of Putin’s recent moves.

After Russia orchestrated a referendum that turned out to be unbelievable, claiming overwhelming support for annexation, Erdogan said the vote had brought “trouble”, lamenting that the conflict had not been resolved diplomatically.

Erdogan was due to speak to Putin later on Thursday, and if possible, it may be too late to convince him to change course. “Such adventures strain diplomatic efforts and lead to deepening instability,” Erdogan said of the phased referendum and military mobilization.

Russian proxies from parts of the occupied region traveled to Moscow on Wednesday ahead of the signing of the so-called accession treaty.

As a sign of Moscow’s hustle and bustle, the state-controlled Rossiya 24 news channel began broadcasting a countdown clock showing the hours and minutes before Putin’s scheduled announcement at 3 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET). Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament, which meets Monday and Tuesday, is sure to ratify the treaties and then pass constitutional amendments for formal annexation, a process similar to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin added some patriotic drama to Friday’s event, announcing a grand concert on Red Square on Friday following the signing of the treaty.

The concert mimicked a similar event in which Putin appeared on stage after Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. This is part of an effort to stoke public enthusiasm for reclaiming the peninsula, which most Russians consider historically theirs.

The annexation of Crimea, Russia’s popular holiday destination, propelled Putin’s approval rating to a record 89 percent in 2015. But public sentiment towards acquiring the four new territories is unlikely to be so strong.

Russia’s many setbacks in the war have exposed the poor image of the Russian military, leaving Putin more vulnerable than ever in his presidency. Pro-war hawks, outraged at his military and mobilization failures, criticized him from the right, while opponents of the war criticized him from the left.

In recent days, more than 200,000 Russians have fled the country to escape part of the mobilization.

A newly mobilized wave of Russian soldiers has arrived in Ukraine with relatively little preparation and may not be enough for Moscow to launch an offensive in the coming weeks to gain full control of the area it annexes, but they could help Russia hold on to the territory for the winter, according to military experts.

Putin’s approval ratings fell after he announced his mobilization, according to the results of a poll released Thursday by the Levada Center, an independent pollster. However, given Russia’s authoritarian system, his ratings remain at a level that any Western politician would envy.

Putin’s approval rating fell to 77 percent from 83 percent last month, while his disapproval rating rose to 21 percent from 15 percent, according to the latest Levada poll. (Putin’s approval rating hit a low of 59 percent in April 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.)

The new results, however, underscore the unpredictable consequences of the war for Putin, as he faces tougher sanctions from the West, a prolonged economic recession and a prolonged bleak period that could increase Ukrainian military casualties.

The annexation could mark the darkest moment in Russia’s relations with the West since the Cold War, after NATO warned on Thursday that damage to two Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic was the result of a “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible act of sabotage”.

Phased referendum yields expected results as Russia prepares for annexation

“As allies, we are committed to preparing for, deterring and defending against coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors,” NATO said in a statement. “Any deliberate attack on allied critical infrastructure will be unified. and a firm response.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday reinforced Russia’s allegations of apparent sabotage. She pointed to the losses in Danish and Swedish waters, which she said were “stuffed” with U.S. weapons and “under the control of the CIA.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that the explosion that damaged the pipeline and caused a massive gas leak appeared to be “intentional”.

“It’s hard to imagine a terrorist act like this taking place without the involvement of a country,” Peskov said.

The Russian state-controlled media broadcasted reports from analysts and pundits saying the attack could only be carried out by the US or the UK. Meanwhile, Western analysts say the sabotage is more likely to be carried out by Russia.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone else,” said Lawrence Friedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London. He added that the pipeline attack could mean “a general, darker warning about the vulnerability of all underwater pipelines and cables if Russia wants to cause more damage”.

The pipeline damage could also be the Kremlin’s message to Europe that it will never again benefit from relatively cheap Russian gas, or possibly northern Europe, Friedman wrote in an email newsletter on Wednesday. State signals that they will always be vulnerable to Russia.

The European Commission on Wednesday recommended an eighth set of sanctions against Russia, including a cap on oil prices, a ban on European nationals from serving on the boards of Russian state-owned companies and a ban on high-tech exports to Russia.

But the package still needs unanimous approval from all 27 EU countries, and Gergely Gulyas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, cast doubt on the key measure when he said on Thursday that Hungary would block any new energy sanctions.

The full consequences of Putin’s annexation declaration are hard to predict.

On the one hand, Russia is likely to declare the Sea of ​​Azov as Russia’s inland sea. Moscow could deploy special police units to suppress partisan activity in occupied areas. In some occupied regions, Kremlin proxies have phased out Ukrainian currency and passports, effectively forcing citizens to accept Russian passports in exchange for social benefits.

Ukraine war: what you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in a Sept. 21 address to the nation, saying the move was to defend Russia’s sovereignty against Western nations trying to use Ukraine as a tool of “division” . and destroy Russia. ” Follow us here for live updates.

Fighting: In recent days, a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a massive Russian retreat in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, as troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned vast quantities of military equipment.

Referendum on annexation: According to the Russian news agency, a phased referendum will be held in the separated Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine from September 23 to 27, according to international law. The Moscow-appointed government will start another staged referendum in Kherson on Friday.

PHOTOS: Photographers for The Washington Post have been on the scene from the very beginning of the war—here are some of their most influential works.

How you can help: Here’s how Americans can help support the people of Ukraine and people around the world who have been giving away.

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