Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday declared four new regions of the country shortly after signing accords and referendums with leaders of parts of occupied Ukraine.
“There are four new regions of Russia,” Putin said in a televised ceremony from the Kremlin in Moscow, according to a translation.
The territory being seized more than seven months into the Kremlin’s war consists of two pro-Russian “republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south. It is thought to make up roughly 18% of Ukraine’s land, although the precise details of the boundaries were not immediately clear. As Crimea too nearly accounts for 4%.
United Nations chief António Guterres, President Biden and other world leaders have condemned these actions.
“The United States will never, never, never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine sovereign territory,” Biden said. “This so-called referenda was a sham — an absolute sham — and the results were manufactured in Moscow.”
“The West decides who has a right to self-determination … who gave them that right?” said Putin.
The Russian leader argued the U.S. was the world’s aggressor, leaving a history of destruction and oppression in its wake.
The Kremlin leader kept hundreds of assembled dignitaries waiting for 18 minutes before entering the imposing columned hall through a pair of golden doors opened by high-stepping guards, as a fanfare blared.
In his speech, he evoked the memory of Russian heroes from the 18th century to World War Two and repeated familiar accusations against the West, accusing it of colonial practices and recalling the use of nuclear weapons by the United States against Japan, which he called a “precedent”, at the end of World War Two.
The hurried annexations mean that the front lines of the war will now run through territory that Russia is declaring as its own and that Putin has said he is ready to defend with nuclear weapons if necessary.