Putin To Give "Major" Speech As Part Of Ukraine Annexation Ceremony
Russia has announced it is holding an annexation ceremony on Friday for the four regions which just conducted a 5-day referendum on whether to join the Russian Federation. It will mark the final move declaring the territories effectively under Kremlin control and its citizens as now Russian.
"Tomorrow in Saint George's Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace at 15:00 (12:00 GMT, or 8:00am US eastern) a signing ceremony will take place on the incorporation of the new territories into Russia," a Kremlin statement previewed Thursday.
Additionally Putin is expected to make a "major" speech, according to the statement by Dmitry Peskov. Polls in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, closed by Tuesday evening, and as expected returned an overwhelming "yes" vote.
The annexation will be formalized at the ceremony, and it's likely that President Putin will reiterate warnings against Ukrainian forces attacking the newly declared annexed territories.
Putin said in a televised meeting with officials on Tuesday as voting closed in the four regions: "Saving people in the territories where this referendum is taking place... is the focus of the attention of our entire society and of the entire country."
On Wednesday Russian media declared a huge sweep in favor of the four occupied regions becoming part of Russia. In some of the regions the "yes" vote was at 98% - which was somewhat expected especially in the breakaway Russian speaking republics where the dividing line had already be made clear through years of war going back to 2014.
A White House statement said in response to the "sham" referendums, "The United States will never recognize Ukrainian territory as anything other than part of Ukraine. Russia’s referenda are a sham – a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law, including the United Nations Charter."
It added, "We will continue to support the Ukrainian people and provide them with security assistance to help them defend themselves as they courageously resist Russia’s invasion." About 18% of Ukraine will be claimed by Russia with this annexation announcement.
The US is said to be preparing further sanctions in response to the annexation move, also after the EU announced it has proposed an eighth package of expanded sanctions, including a potential oil price cap, which however is expected to be controversial within the bloc given Hungary's long on-record objections.