Russia plans to hold a ceremony in Moscow’s Red Square flaunting their illegal attempted annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday amid the escalation of the war in Ukraine.
The planned ceremony would come after Russian-controlled referendums were held in Donetsk and Luhansk, both cities in the Donbas region and the cities of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, both in southern Ukraine. Both areas have been occupied by Russia since the early days of the war. The referendum was held under suspicious circumstances, with voters reportedly voting under military supervision and with public ballots.
At the ceremony, Russian President Vladamir Putin is expected to give a speech regarding the Russian claims and to meet publicly with Russian-backed leaders of the four regions Russia is annexing. Additionally, he will sign proclamations declaring the regions as part of Russia. The spectacle comes as protests have erupted across Russia after it was announced that the Russian military would draft Russian civilians. Reports out of Russia indicate that discontentment is felt beyond radicals, but by the general population.
Russia’s annexation attempts have been met with harsh criticisms across the globe. The secretary-general of the UN said that the annexation is a “dangerous escalation” that severely hampers the chance for peace in the region.
Ukrainian intelligence has warned that after the annexation referendum, the threat of nuclear weapons being used by Russia is “very high”; however, according to CNN, U.S. intelligence still sees nuclear action from Russia as unlikely. Regardless, the annexation coupled with Russia’s recent mobilization of troops sends signals that some sort of escalation is on the way.
In response to this, countries that have supported Ukraine have put more sanctions on Russia. According to CNBC, the United Kingdom has already imposed 92 new sanctions, the United States has said that more sanctions will come in the coming days, and the European Union has proposed new sanctions of their own. These sanctions add on to the already massive amounts of sanctions that have been imposed on Russia since the invasion began.
All of this comes despite the military and territorial losses Russia has endured over the last few months.