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Russia says any attack on annexed Ukraine territory 'will be an attack on us'

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine in defiance of international law, saying Moscow would protect the newly incorporated regions by “all available means.” (AP)Premium
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine in defiance of international law, saying Moscow would protect the newly incorporated regions by “all available means.” (AP)

The Kremlin has stated that attacks on any part of the swathe of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin has annexed would be considered aggression against Russia itself

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday annexed four territories in Ukraine controlled by his army at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin and urged Kyiv to lay down its arms and negotiate an end to seven months of fighting. Earlier today Kremlin had declared that any attack against that area annexed would be considered an attack on Russia itself. It also stated that Russia would fight to annex the entire eastern Donbas region.

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of almost a fifth of Ukraine, escalating his seven-month war and entering into a new phase of uncertainties.

Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, which are largely or partially occupied by Russian or Russian-backed forces, are now officially recognised as being a part of Russia by Moscow.

Reporters questioned whether any attack by Ukraine on areas it claims as its own land would be viewed as an attack on Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, "It would not be anything else."

Putin said last week he was willing to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia's "territorial integrity".

Following what it referred to as referendums in the Ukrainian regions it has occupied, Russia has annexed the areas. The hastily organised elections, according to Western governments and Kyiv, violated international law and were coercive and completely unrepresentative.

Kyiv and the West have rejected his "land-grab" in Ukraine. The European Union's 27 member states said they will never recognize the illegal referendums that Russia organized “as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Uncertainty surrounds the precise terms of Russia's annexation, but it appears that in addition to the Crimea that Russia annexed in 2014, Russia has claimed about 109,000 square kilometres (42,000 square miles) or about 15% of Ukrainian territory.

That territory is not entirely under Russian control, though. Ukrainian forces have encircled the Russian stronghold of Lyman in the north of the Donetsk region as Putin has formally declared the annexation.

RUSSIA'S PLAN OF ANNEXATION

Although separatists with Russian support refer to Luhansk as the Luhansk People's Republic, Russia only controls about 60% of the Donetsk region.

The entirety of the Ukrainian province of Donetsk is claimed by the self-styled separatist Donetsk People's Republic, which is supported by Russia.

Asked what would happen to the territory not under Russian control, Peskov said: "It is to be liberated." He said the whole of the Donetsk region would become part of Russia.

Regarding whether Russia would assert its sovereignty over the entirety of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which Putin recognised as independent states on Thursday, Peskov was less certain.

"We will clarify everything today," Peskov said. Russia currently controls about 70% of Zaporizhzhia region.

The Donbas, which included the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, had a combined population of about 6 million before the invasion and was home to a significant amount of Russian-speaking heavy industry and coal mining until the fighting began in 2014.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in Ukraine's Maidan Revolution and Russia annexed Crimea.

(With inputs from agencues)

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