Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign the annexation Friday of four occupied regions of Ukraine to become part of Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced this morning.
The Kremlin will host a ceremony on Friday where agreements will be signed on the annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Peskov said the ceremony would take place on Friday at 3 p.m. local time. Taken together the regions in the east and south make up 18% of Ukraine’s territory. The move follows the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which many consider the less violent pre-cursor to Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine.
Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, the heads of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DNR and LNR), as well as the heads of the pro-Russian military-civil administrations of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, Yevgeny Balitsky and Vladimir Saldo, arrived in Moscow on Thursday to ‘make a historic decision.’
This comes after “sham” referendums on annexation have been held in these four regions over the past week, which Putin apparently believes gives him cover and justification to claim the territory as part of Russia. Concerns are growing that Putin will use the claim of occupied Ukrainian support for Russia as pretext to escalate the war.
Erdogan Pessimistic About Negotiations
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
During a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Russia's "unilateral" referendums held in Russian-occupied territories to vote on annexation would complicate efforts to end the war through any "diplomatic process."
According to a statement released by Erdogan's office, which came before the official announcement of a Kremlin annexation ceremony on Friday, he also said that Turkey "stands ready to provide every kind of support for the settlement of the war through peaceful negotiations."
New EU Sanctions On Russia
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her visit to Ukraine
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a new sanctions package on the Kremlin in response to Russia's sham referendums in Ukrainian occupied territories.
The package proposes to introduce a price cap for Russian oil sold to third countries, which "will help reduce Russia's revenues on the one hand and it will keep global energy markets stable on the other hand," according to von der Leyen. The Commission also proposes further import bans that will "deprive Russia of an additional 7 billion euros in revenues."
"We do not accept the sham referendums nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine. And we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation," von der Leyen said.
U.S. To Give $1.1 Billion In Additional Aid To Kyiv
Ukraine troops using HIMARS
The U.S. Defense Department has announced $1.1 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine. The new package will include around 18 more HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), ammunition, and 12 Titan systems, which are used to counter drones, according to The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, Oliver Varhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement announced on Wednesday, another 500 million euros in budget support for Ukraine saying that the money would help strengthen Ukraine's food security.
The funds are to be used by Ukraine to strengthen the government's ability to meet the needs of the population, which are not covered by humanitarian assistance and the civil protection mechanism.
More Countries Urge Their Citizens To Leave Russia Amid Security Threat
Passengers are seen at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow
American citizens have been urged to leave Russia "immediately" in a new security alert by the U.S. embassy in Moscow. In an online statement, embassy officials warned that people with a dual Russian-U.S. nationality may be prevented from leaving the country. "Russia may [...] prevent their departure and conscript dual nationals for military service,” warned the embassy.
Other countries, including Poland, Bulgaria and Estonia have also advised their citizens to leave Russia as soon as possible. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared the "highest level of threat" regarding the political situation. Commercial flights are extremely limited at the moment and governments have urged citizens to leave by any means.
Finland Bans Entry To Russian Tourists
Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto
The Finnish government announced that all Russian tourists will be banned from entering the country starting midnight Friday. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in a press conference that the aim was to "completely prevent Russian tourism and the related transit through Finland.”
This comes several days after Putin's mobilization order sent thousands of Russians on the road to flee the country. Border agency Frontex reported that 30,000 Russians arrived in Finland over the last four days. Finland had already reduced to one-tenth the number of visas issued to Russian citizens at the beginning of September.
Germany Has Been Secretly Supplying Military Intelligence To Ukraine
Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Germany has been supplying Ukraine with intelligence on the movement of the Russian army since May, according to German newspaper Die Ziet.
The decision to provide intelligence was made by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz after an appeal from the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Germany has been sending Ukraine satellite images, radio and telephone messages, which are intercepted by the BND.
According to the paper, the BND conducted a legal review of the decision to transfer intelligence to Ukraine. Lawyers came to the conclusion that the transfer of such information is in accordance with the law and does not mean that Germany has entered into a military conflict.
Germany Reports Fourth Nord Stream Leak, "Strong Indication" Of Sabotage
“The seabed is the new theater of war, and Denmark is vulnerable / column: “Gas attacks are an outcry. The sabotage in the Baltic Sea presents a new threat”
Germany’s ambassador to the UK , Michael Berger, said on Thursday that a fourth leak in the Nordstream pipelines connecting Russia and Germany had been discovered with “very strong” signs of sabotage.
Sweden and Denmark, who flagged the first leaks on Tuesday, will lead an investigation into the cause of the leaks, but said results will likely take up to 10 days as gas is still escaping from the pipelines, making the situation very dangerous.
“It didn’t happen just like that,” said Berger, adding that “everything indicated” the leaks were not the product of natural causes.
Kazakhstan To Tajikistan: Ex-Soviet Republics Go Their Own Way
Defense Ministers for Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan attend the opening of the Army 2022 International Military and Technical Forum in the Moscow region on Aug. 15, 2022.
Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.
Oleksandr Demchenko for Kyiv-based Livy Bereg: One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin
Former Premier League Soccer Star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov Mobilized To Join War Effort
Former Premier League soccer star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov
Former Premier League soccer star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov haș been drafted to join Russia’s military registration and enlistment office, his father told Russia state news agency RIA Novosti.
Bilyaletdinov is a Russian national and member of the country's Tatar ethnic minority group. “Diniyar really received a summons. It’s hard to talk about emotions, because he didn’t serve, although he did military service, but it was specific, with a sports bias. That was 19 years ago,” his father said.
He also argued that his son, who played with Everton and suited up for 46 matches for the Russian national team, was incorrectly called to fight as he is older than the age limit.
“The law still says to call people up to 35 years old, and he is 37, so there is some kind of inconsistency. Now it will be found out whether this agenda is correct or it was sent early. Anything can happen. If there was a general mobilization, then ask questions. In the meantime, the president has established a partial one, everything should be in accordance with the law," he said.