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Putin’s Landmark Annexation Speech Paves Way For Escalation

For Vladimir Putin, there are "four new regions of Russia."

Putin’s Landmark Annexation Speech Paves Way For Escalation

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech to Russian people following the results of the referendum dealing with the annexation in four regions of Ukraine partly controlled by Moscow

Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger, Chloe Touchard, and Emma Albright

In a wide-ranging and provocative speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the annexation of four Ukraine regions, which Putin says now make Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson officially part of Russia.

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Speaking in the Kremlin’s St George’s Hall, the much-anticipated address to the Russian nation follows the so-called "referendums" in the occupied areas of the four Ukrainian regions — which the West condemned as shams held under gunpoint. Friday’s annexation comes as Russia is losing territory on the ground following a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Putin directly addressed the leaders of Ukraine and "their real masters in the West," that the annexation was "for everyone to remember. People living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens. Forever."

Repeating his longstanding claims that Ukraine is not a veritable nation, Putin declared Friday that the annexation is now non-negotiable, and that the citizens of the four regions have made "their choice." He also accused the West of being “greedy” and wanting Russia to be its “colony.”

Following the speech, Putin and the four Russian-appointed leaders of the regions signed the documents that made the annexation official. The crowd gathered inside the ornate Hall applauded loudly, chanting "Russia, Russia..."

Just hours before the Kremlin speech, U.S. President Joe Biden declared, "The United States, I want to be very clear about this, will never, never, never recognize Russia's claims on Ukraine sovereign territory." European leaders also declared that they would not recognize the annexation.

The newly annexed territory, which follows Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, covers more than 38,000 square miles, (100,000 square kilometers), which accounts for 18% of Ukrainian territory. It is by far the largest forcible annexation of land in Europe since World War II.

By all accounts, the move threatens to escalate the seven-month-old war, as open combat is now taking place on territory that Moscow considers Russian land. Gazeta.ru cites Kremlin spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov as saying that Moscow will regard any attack on annexed territory as an attack on Russia itself.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called an urgent security council meeting. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, added that the council would make crucial and "fundamental" decisions.

Russian Missile Attack On Civilian Evacuation Convoy Kills At Least 25

Aftermath of Russian missile attack on convoy

Cover Images/Zuma

Russian troops launched a missile attack on a line of civilian cars on the way out of the humanitarian regional center in the Zaporizhzhia oblast, killing at least 25 civilians and injuring 50. Zaporizhzhia Oblast Governor Oleksandr Starukh says the rescue operation remains ongoing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Russian forces who carried out the attack on civilians, "downright terrorists."

Russian forces also killed eight civilians and injured 17 in the Donetsk region, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the region’s governor. There was also Russian shelling in the Kharkiv Oblast, wounding seven people, while a residential area was also targeted in the city of Dnipro.

Russia Says It Has Proof West Is Behind Nord Stream Sabotage

Russian Foreign Intelligence Service

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has announced it obtained proof that a Western attack caused this week’s damage to the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.

"We already have some materials that point to the Western footprint in the organization and implementation of this terrorist act," Sergei Naryshkin of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service told journalists. "In my opinion, the West is doing everything to hide the true perpetrators and organizers of this international terrorist act."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the cause of the Nord Stream leaks won't be known "until a complete investigation is done." He offered full assistance to Denmark to investigate the matter and said that there will be no speculation on who may be responsible until there is more information. On Thursday, NATO called the incidents "irresponsible acts of sabotage."

Polish Foreign Minister On How To Respond To Nuclear Threat: NATO Could Enter Ukraine

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau

Screenshot of interview

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said in an interview with Polish radio RMF FM that NATO would almost certainly have a conventional response to a possible Russian nuclear attack against Ukraine.

"The world will resolutely — in agreement with the U.S. — respond to a possible nuclear attack in Ukraine, haunted by Russia," he said. When asked whether NATO troops would enter Ukraine, Rau added that it cannot be ruled out. He added, however, that conventional weapons, such as aviation and missiles, don't necessarily have to be launched from Ukrainian soil.

Mikhail Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine, said he believed that the possibility of a nuclear conflict was small, but existed nonetheless: "If the world, I mean its civilian part, allows a complete collapse of the international nuclear security mechanism, the consequences will be catastrophic not only for Ukraine," he said in an interview published on Friday with Italian daily La Repubblica.

Belarus’ Lukashenko Blames Europe For Blocking Peace, Warns “Think Again”

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Bilateral Meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin Pool/Planet/Zuma

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that peace in Ukraine could be achieved within “a few days” so long as the Europeans want it.

"If the Europeans sincerely want it, peace can be achieved within a few days," the Belarusian leader said at a ceremony, accepting the credentials of the ambassadors of foreign countries on Friday, the BelTA news agency reports.

“This conflict is in our European home. Once again I declare this and warn the Europeans: Think again and do everything to ensure that there is peace on this earth," Lukashenko said.

The war was a “direct result of strategic intrigues and the greatest stupidity, primarily of Western politicians," Lukashenko added, recalling that Belarus had hosted previous Ukraine-Russia negotiations.

In his evening address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the war “can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia.”

Why More Russians Don’t Resist Putin’s Call To The Front

Conscripts in a bus at a recruitment center leaving the city of Kineshma for war

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS via ZUMA

Coverage the past week since Russia announced a “partial mobilization” of hundreds of thousands of new recruits has focused on those evading the draft. But the real story is how many untrained and under-equipped citizens will blindly follow the Kremlin’s orders.

"The reaction of Russians is a habitual behavior toward the state, a feeling of helplessness,” Worldcrunch’s Anna Akage quotes Lev Gudkov, scientific director of the Russian sociological center Levada, as saying. “It is also an identification with the state. It is considered impossible to oppose the state; this creates a powerful internal conflict that causes people to behave like the doomed, convincing themselves that this is important, that this is necessary, repeating all the clichés that propaganda gives to do your duty for the state, go defend your own in the Donbas."

Read the piece here: To The Slaughter: Why Putin Can Count On So Many Russians Mobilizing For Their Death

U.S. Army Doctor And Wife Charged With Conspiring With Russia

A couple from the U.S. state of Maryland has been charged with conspiring to provide the Russian government with personal medical records from the U.S. government and military, according to a new federal indictment.

Anna Gabrielian, an anesthesiologist in Baltimore, and her husband, Jamie Lee Henry, a major and doctor in the U.S. army, allegedly provided “individually identifiable health information,” to an FBI undercover agent posing as a Russian government employee.

According to the US Attorney’s office in the District of Maryland, the husband and wife were arrested on Thursday morning. The indictment stipulated that Gabrielian was contacted by the undercover agent in August after she had reached out to the Russian embassy to offer her and her husband’s assistance to the Russian government several months before.

During a meeting with the undercover agent, Gabrielian said she was “motivated by patriotism toward Russia” and wanted to provide assistance even if it meant risking jail time. Henry also claims to have “looked into volunteering to join the Russian Army after the conflict in Ukraine began,” but didn’t have the necessary combat experience, according to the indictment.

Luke Skywalker Actor Mark Hamill Named Ambassador For Ukraine’s “Army Of Drones” Project

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill was made an ambassador for Ukraine’s Army of Drones project by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Thanking Hamill during an online call for his continuous support of Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, Zekensky said: “As in Star Wars, good will triumph over evil and light will overcome darkness. With you in the team, there’s no other way around it.”

The project, helmed by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Ministry of Digital Transformation, the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine and UNITED24, aims at procuring, repairing and replacing drones and training their pilots to defend the country against the Russian invasion.

“I know for certain that Ukrainians need drones to protect their land, their freedom and the values of the entire democratic world,” CNN quotes the Luke Skywalker actor as saying. “Right now is the best time for everyone to come together and help Ukraine stand up in this war with the evil empire.”

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AI As God? How Artificial Intelligence Could Spark Religious Devotion

We may be about to see the emergence of a new kind of religion, where flocks worship — literally — at the altar of Artificial Intelligence.

Image of artificial intelligence as an artificial being

Artificial intelligence generated picture of AI as a god

Neil McArthur

The latest generation of AI-powered chatbots, trained on large language models, have left their early users awestruck —and sometimes terrified — by their power. These are the same sublime emotions that lie at the heart of our experience of the divine.

People already seek religious meaning from very diverse sources. There are, for instance, multiple religions that worship extra-terrestrials or their teachings.

As these chatbots come to be used by billions of people, it is inevitable that some of these users will see the AIs as higher beings. We must prepare for the implications.

There are several pathways by which AI religions will emerge. First, some people will come to see AI as a higher power.

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