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Putin Rails at "Colonial" West as Ukrainian Push Overshadows Annexation Ceremony

Global Sep 30, 2022 16:16
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By Geoffrey Smith 

Investing.com -- Russian President Vladimir Putin formalized the biggest land grab the world has seen in nearly 50 years on Friday, even as Ukrainian forces recaptured more of the territory the Kremlin is claiming.

Putin hosted a ceremony on Friday, formally annexing the Ukrainian provinces of Zaporizhzhya and Kherson, in addition to the two "People's Republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk which were broken off from Ukraine at the time of Russia's first invasion in 2014.

According to calculations by Investing.com, it's the biggest transfer of territory from one sovereign state to another since North Vietnam absorbed U.S.-backed South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.

Russia's action, which follows hastily arranged referendums held at gunpoint across the four territories at the weekend, has been roundly condemned by both the United States and UN Secretary-General António Guterres. It stands in sharp contrast to claims regularly made by Putin since 2014 that there would be no further annexations of Ukrainian territory after the seizure of the Crimean peninsula.

At the start of the current war, Putin had said his aim was "to protect the people of Donbass" - the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk - and "denazify" the Ukrainian regime. 

"The United States rejects the illegitimate, fabricated outcomes of Russia's sham "referenda" in Ukraine," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday. "This is a violation of international law. We stand in support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The European Union was equally blunt in its condemnation, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying that: "The illegal annexation proclaimed by Putin won’t change anything. All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation."

In a speech at the ceremony, Putin appeared to justify the annexation by referring to the historical crimes of a colonializing West, saying that Russia - which amassed the biggest land empire in world history between the 17th and mid-19th centuries - was an 'anti-colonial' power. He also found time to criticize the availability of sex change operations in western countries.

Putin avoided any fresh escalation of the rhetoric around the war but accused "Anglo-Saxons" - meaning the U.S. and U.K. - for the explosions earlier this week that wrecked the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea. The governments of Denmark and Sweden, in whose waters the attacks took place, have both pointed the finger at Russia.

At no point in his speech did he specify the limits of the territory to which he was laying claim. Russian forces don't completely control any of the regions it annexed on Friday, and its hold on them appeared to be slipping further, after both Russian and Ukrainian sources suggested that Ukrainian forces had made fresh advances in the Donetsk region.

Russian military bloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian armed forces were close to encircling the Russian defenders of Lyman, a town that controls an important supply line for Russia's troops further to the south and west. That would consolidate much bigger gains that Ukrainian forces made at the start of the month.

Putin Rails at "Colonial" West as Ukrainian Push Overshadows Annexation Ceremony
 

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