Putin claims Russia fulfilling 'will of millions of people' in deranged annexation speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced four regions of Ukraine are now part of Russia in a deranged speech. The Russian leader said it was the choice of those who voted in referendums held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Western governments and Kyiv have said the votes breached international law and were coercive and unrepresentative. 

Putin, speaking in the Kremlin, said: “We had referendums. The results have come through and the results are known. People have made their choice and it is a definitive choice. Today were are siging the decree on accepting [Luhansk, Donetsk,] Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. I am sure the Federal Assembly will support the laws of creating four new subjects of the Russian Federation because this is the will of millions of people.”

The opening to Putin’s speech was met by applause before he continued: “And of course, this is their right. Their integral right which is emphasised in the principles of the United Nations. It’s the self-determination of people. It’s the right that is based on the historical unity which was defended by generations of our people. People who for generations protected Russia… Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought in the wars. 

“People who did not agree with the military coup in 2014, people who gave their lives for the right to keep theur beliefs, their language, it’s the people of Donbas, these are victims of inhumane terrorist attacks conducted by the Kyiv regime. These are peaceful citizens, children, grandmothers, Russians, Ukrainians, people of various ethnic origins.”

Putin went on to name service personnel who had died in what Russia calls a “special military operation”.

He said: “They’re heroes of the great Russia.” He added his country was at the beginning of a battle for a “greater historical Russia”.

He vowed to defend Russia’s “homeland and values” in his defiant speech, accusing the United States and its allies of waging a “hybrid war” against his country and the separatist administrations it backs in eastern Ukraine.

Putin said the West had broken its promises to Russia, had no moral right to talk about democracy and that the countries of the West were acting as the imperialist states they had “always been”.

The Russian dictator accused the West of moving towards open Satanism, rejecting religious and family norms. In one bizarre remark attacking the West, he asked his audience whether they wanted Russian children to be offered sex changes.

He urged Ukraine to cease military action and return to the negotiating table. Kyiv has vowed to recapture all the lands seized by Russia and said Moscow’s decision to annex the territories has destroyed any prospect of talks.

Putin kept hundreds of assembled dignitaries waiting for 18 minutes before entering the imposing columned St George’s Hall at the Kremlin through a pair of golden doors opened by high-stepping guards, as a fanfare blared ahead of the speech.

The ceremony took place three days after the completion of hastily staged so-called referendums in which Moscow’s proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99 percent in favour of joining Russia.

Ukraine and Western governments said the votes, announced only 10 days ago, were conducted at gunpoint, were bogus and illegitimate.

The hurried annexations mean front lines in the war will now run through territory Russia is declaring as its own and which Putin has said he is ready to defend with nuclear weapons if necessary.

Some Western politicians called that a bluff – something Putin explicitly denied. Washington says it has warned Moscow of catastrophic consequences if it does use a nuclear weapon.

At the end of his speech, Putin welcomed the Russian backed leaders of the four regions as the Ukrainian lands were officially annexed in a signing ceremony.

It is the largest land grab in Europe since World War Two, covering 15 percent of Ukraine equivalent to the size of Portugal or Hungary.

Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter the illegal annexation will not change anything and all occupied territories remain part of Ukraine.

Putin’s move comes after Kyiv reclaimed swathes of territory and sent Russian troops scrambling in a lightning counter-offensive earlier this month.

The Russian leader is facing a huge defeat in the nearly encircled city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv’s forces are encircling the city which is believed to be occupied by the remnants of Russia’s 144th Motor Rifle Division.

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