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Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, signed annexation treaties with the leaders of the occupied Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia.
The signing ceremony, which took place in St. George’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, was attended by the separatist leaders of the four Ukrainian territories, Denis Pushilin, Leonid Pasechnik, Vladimir Saldo, and Yevgeny Balitsky, respectively.
After the signing, hundreds of guests applauded, while Putin shook hands with the four pro-Russian leaders and the Russian anthem was played.
After the last note, Putin, Pushilin, Pasechnik, Saldo, and Balitsky joined hands and formed a semicircle to chant “Russia, Russia, Russia.”
The guests at the event —the presidents of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodynin, and of the Senate, Valentina Matviyenko, members of the Russian government, deputies, senators, religious leaders and governors, among others— stood up and cheered.
The signing of the annexation of these eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, which Russia only partially controls, came after Putin delivered a 38-minute speech in which he defended the “unequivocal” choice of the citizens of the four provinces, called on Ukraine to immediately cease fire and promised to defend Russian territory with all means.
Putin took this step after recognizing the independence of Zaporizhia and Kherson the day before, something he already did on February 21 with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Previously, the Russian leader had informed the president of the Duma of the formal request addressed to him on the 28th by the pro-Russian leaders of the four Ukrainian provinces to integrate their territories into the Russian Federation, as required by the Constitution of the country.
This is the second annexation by Russia of Ukrainian territory in just over eight years, after the one it carried out with the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.
As then, when the Crimeans held an annexation referendum, which was supported by 96.77 % of voters, according to the Russian version, this 2022 also sees the absorption of the four occupied Ukrainian provinces following pseudo-consultations.
Between 87 % and 99 % of the citizens supported the annexation of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson to Russia, according to the pro-Russian authorities.
Russia is annexing about 15 % of Ukraine’s territory or about 100,000 square kilometers, slightly more than the size of countries such as Hungary and Portugal or slightly less than that of Bulgaria.
The Russian Federation, which has more than 147 million inhabitants, will exceed 150 million after the annexation process.
Putin takes this step in the eighth month of the military campaign in Ukraine and after suffering major defeats in the north and northeast of the neighboring country, which he attacked on February 24.
He is also making this move, considered illegal and null and void by the international community, after decreeing on the 21st a partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists to reinforce Russian troops in Ukraine.
Practically the entire international community, as well as Ukraine, have already stated that they will not recognize the annexation. Not even traditional partners of Moscow such as China, India or Serbia support Putin’s move.