President Vladimir V. Putin asserted on Friday that Russia would annex 4 Ukrainian areas and decried the United States for “Satanism,” in a speech that marked an escalation in Moscow’s warfare towards Ukraine. In starkly confrontational phrases, he positioned Russia as preventing an existential battle with Western elites he deemed “the enemy.”
Speaking to lots of of Russian lawmakers and governors in a grand Kremlin corridor, Mr. Putin stated that the residents of the 4 areas — that are nonetheless partially managed by Ukrainian forces — would turn out to be Russia’s residents “forever.” He then held a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of these areas to begin the official annexation course of, earlier than clasping arms with them and chanting “Russia! Russia!”
The Biden administration shortly condemned the annexations, saying they “have no legitimacy,” and enacted a spherical of latest sanctions on Russia’s protection and know-how industries as punishment for Moscow’s actions.
Mr. Putin’s deal with got here towards a backdrop of Russian setbacks on the battlefield, the place Ukraine’s forces have scored gorgeous victories in latest weeks in the east. As the Russian chief spoke, Ukrainian officers stated their military had moved nearer to encircling the Russian-occupied city of Lyman, a strategically essential hub in the Donetsk area that lies inside the territory Mr. Putin is claiming.
Even by Mr. Putin’s more and more antagonistic requirements, the speech was a rare mixture of bluster and menace, mixing conspiratorial riffs towards an American-led “neocolonial system” with an enchantment to the world to see Russia as the chief of an rebellion towards American energy.
He referred to “the ruling circles of the so-called West” as “the enemy” — a phrase he hardly ever makes use of in reference to the West — and struck a tone of anger and defiance. And he once more raised the specter of nuclear weapons, which the Kremlin has made veiled threats about utilizing, noting in a cryptic apart that the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan in 1945 had “created a precedent.”
“Not only do Western elites deny national sovereignty and international law,” he stated in the 37-minute deal with. “Their hegemony has a pronounced character of totalitarianism, despotism and apartheid.”
Western leaders have condemned Russia’s annexations as unlawful, and the “referendums” that preceded them — purporting to point out overwhelming native help for becoming a member of Russia — as fraudulent. President Biden stated “the United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”
In the United Nations Security Council, 10 of 15 nations voted on Friday in favor of a U.S.-Albania decision condemning Moscow’s actions, however Russia exercised the veto energy it holds as a everlasting member. Mr. Putin’s someday allies, China and India, which have expressed rising uneasiness together with his warfare on Ukraine, have been amongst 4 nations that abstained; solely Russia voted towards the decision.
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Ukraine’s authorities has rebuffed Mr. Putin’s claims and vowed to retake territory captured by Russia in the east and south. “Everything will be Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Friday on the Telegram social community.
In a video, Mr. Zelensky accused the Kremlin of attempting to “steal something that does not belong to it,” including “Ukraine will not allow that.”
He additionally introduced that he was fast-tracking his nation’s software to affix NATO — a transfer that Russia vehemently opposes and that faces steep hurdles, provided that admission to the alliance requires unanimous consent from all 30 member nations.
Mr. Putin insisted that Russia’s place on annexing the 4 territories was nonnegotiable, including that it might defend them “with all the forces and means at our disposal.”
“I call on the Kyiv regime to immediately cease-fire and all military action,” he stated, and “to return to the negotiating table.”
“But we will not discuss the decision of the people of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson,” he went on, referring to the 4 Ukrainian areas being annexed. “It has been made. Russia will not betray it.”
Earlier Friday, Russia unleashed certainly one of the deadliest assaults towards Ukrainian civilians in weeks with a strike in the Zaporizhzhia area, a kind of Russia has stated it’s annexing. The assault killed 25 folks and injured one other 66, Ukraine’s prosecutor common stated. It was a part of a flurry of strikes towards Ukrainian cities simply hours earlier than Mr. Putin spoke.
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden stated “America and its allies are not going be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats.” But for Washington and its European allies, Mr. Putin’s determination to escalate his rhetoric, whereas insisting he was prepared to barter, units up tough decisions about how a lot direct confrontation they’re keen to threat with Moscow.
The army draft that Mr. Putin declared final week implies that he’ll quickly have extra males to ship to the entrance line, whereas his claims of an existential battle appeared designed to organize his populace for extra attempting instances forward.
“The West has to think what is the final price it is ready to pay for Ukraine,” stated Alexander Baunov, a Russian worldwide coverage professional with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “And it is a very serious question because we don’t know the further appetites of Putin’s Russia.”
But Mr. Putin faces monumental challenges of his personal. Conscription has proved so unpopular that on Thursday he took the uncommon step of acknowledging on nationwide tv errors by his authorities in the way it was carried out.
Tens of hundreds of younger males are fleeing Russia and the draft, braving miles-long traces at the borders with Georgia and Kazakhstan, a sign that many Russians are usually not shopping for Mr. Putin’s arguments for the invasion of Ukraine. And the chaos of the draft has dealt one other setback to Russia’s sanctions-scarred financial system.
Mr. Putin’s reply on Friday was to reply with threats, jingoism and conspiracy theories. In the night, he appeared at a live performance and rally in Red Square and, standing earlier than St. Basil’s Cathedral, led the crowd in a chant of “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!”
“The truth is behind us, and in truth there is strength, which means victory!” Mr. Putin stated at the finish of his temporary deal with at the rally, borrowing a catchphrase from a 2000 Russian crime movie. “Victory will be ours!”
In his speech at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin forged the battle with the West in much more extreme phrases than he had beforehand, reeling off centuries of Western army actions to denounce the American-led world order as essentially evil, corrupt and set on Russia’s destruction.
“The repression of freedom is taking on the outlines of a reverse religion, of real Satanism,” Mr. Putin stated, asserting that liberal Western values on issues like gender id amounted to a “denial of man.”
But Mr. Putin provided few new particulars on the matter that’s now maybe of biggest concern in Western capitals — whether or not, and at what level, he would possibly use weapons of mass destruction to drive Ukraine to capitulate. His spokesman stated earlier in the day that after the annexation of the 4 areas — a transfer that nearly no different nation is predicted to acknowledge — an assault on these areas could be handled as an assault on Russia.
Without saying so immediately, Mr. Putin hinted that the position of nuclear weapons in warfare is on his thoughts. Describing the West as “deceitful and hypocritical through and through,” Mr. Putin famous that the United States was the solely nation to have used nuclear weapons in warfare. He then added: “By the way, they created a precedent.”
Mr. Putin was interesting to 3 key audiences. To Russians, he sought to justify the increasing hardship his warfare has been inflicting by insisting they have been preventing for his or her survival. To the West, he labored to telegraph his willpower that he was unbowed by sanctions or arms deliveries to Ukraine, and would hold preventing — with the veiled menace of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal in the background.
And to the remainder of the world, Mr. Putin sought to forged himself as the chief of a worldwide motion towards the “Western racists” he claimed have been imposing American hegemony. The West, he claimed, had not modified from the centuries previous during which it brutally colonized different nations and fought wars to realize financial benefit.
Western nations, he insisted, had “no moral right” to sentence the annexation of components of Ukraine.
“The Western elites remain colonizers as they always were,” Mr. Putin stated. “They have divided the world into their vassals — the so-called civilized countries — and everyone else.”
As Mr. Putin spoke, a crowd gathered on Red Square for the live performance and rally. Russian media reported that Moscow universities had directed college students to attend. Pro-Kremlin pop music performers belted out nationalist songs from a stage that stated “Russia!” and was flanked with banners studying “Choice of the people!” and “Together forever!”
At one level, a younger girl in an orange sweatshirt took the stage, describing herself as a volunteer serving to folks in Russian-occupied Ukraine. Her husband had been drafted per week in the past, she stated.
“I’m not moping and will wait for him and support him,” she stated. Appearing to carry again tears, she added: “I call on you, women: support your husbands, sons and fathers. Everything will be OK.”
Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.