The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is expected to sign into law Russia’s formal annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia on Friday.
After a week of illegal referendums organised by the Kremlin in the four Ukrainian regions, Friday marks the day that Russia will officially annex larges swathes of Ukrainian territory, some of which it has occupied since 2014.
A ceremony will take place on Friday in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate what Russia claims to be electoral wins in the occupied territories, which make up 15% of Ukraine. Putin will ink accession documents at the Kremlin before delivering a speech at the ceremony in the Red Square; a pop concert is also planned.
The Kremlin is currently trying to regain some momentum after a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the North, while also completing one of the stated objectives of the invasion launched on February 24. While it has not been able to conquer the entire country, the war in the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk pre-date the 2022 war.
Russia, through its pro-Russia proxy combatants, has occupied large parts of Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014, with Friday’s move marking a decisive moment in the eight-year war in the Donbas region. Russia has also annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 under a similar strategy of military occupation followed by a force and illegal referendum.
UN Secretary-General Antònio Guterres responded to the situation by calling Russia’s latest move a “dangerous escalation.” Under international law and the principles of the UN Charter, the annexation of territory constitutes one of the most serious violations.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexations… would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” Guterres stated, adding that as a Member of the Security Council, Russia had a special duty to uphold the UN Charter.
Guterres also stated that the so-called referendums – held during the active conflict in occupied areas and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework – cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will.