Update(10:23ET): With the ink drying on the official annexation declarations newly signed by the heads of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Friday’s historic ceremony – the key takeaway from President Putin’s lengthy speech is that he declared a “mission accomplished” of sorts. He said these eastern and southern provinces are now part of Russia “forever”. He even touted that the referendums were accomplished in line with the UN charter on self-determination for all peoples, and vowed “They have made their choice… this is the only path to peace. We will protect our land using all our forces and we will protect their security. We will of course rebuild all destroyed towns and continue building hospitals, theaters, and schools.”
Putin bluntly informed the large audience of top officials at Saint George’s Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace of Moscow that there are now “four new regions of Russia” – a fait accompli that the Ukrainian government and its Western backers are rejecting, also on fresh reports that pro-Kremlin forces have suffered more setbacks in Donetsk in particular. Earlier in the week Moscow acknowledged that its “special operation” will continue until at least all of Donetsk is captured. At this point, none of the entirety of each of the four regions are yet under total Russian military control, the overwhelming “yes” votes among citizens in favor of joining the Russian Federation notwithstanding.
This means Kiev is of course unlikely to accept Putin’s essential assertion of we’ve taken the four territories, now let the negotiations begin [our paraphrase]. “We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately stop hostilities and sit at the negotiating table,” Putin said…
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