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Putin declares four Ukraine regions part of Russia, calls it historic mission

Kyiv and the West have rejected his land-grab in Ukraine

Putin declares four Ukraine regions part of Russia, calls it historic mission

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to annex parts of Ukraine in defiance of international law, saying Moscow would protect the newly incorporated regions by all available means.

He also urged Ukraine to sit down for peace talks but immediately insisted he won't discuss handing them back, opening a new escalatory phase of his seven-month invasion of the country.

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.

In a Kremlin ceremony at the ornate St. George's Hall to herald the annexation of the occupied parts of Ukraine, Putin accused the West of fueling the hostilities as part of what he said is a plan to turn Russia into a colony and a crowd of slaves.

The hardening of his position, in the conflict that has killed and wounded tens of thousands of people, further cranked up tensions, already at levels unseen since the Cold War.

The European Union immediately responded to Putin's latest step with a joint statement rejecting and condemning the illegal annexation of the four regions: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

The ceremony came three days after the completion in the occupied regions of Kremlin-orchestrated referendums on joining Russia that were dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a bare-faced land grab held at gunpoint and based on lies.

In his speech railing at the West, Putin urged Ukraine to sit down for talks and said it should treat the Kremlin-managed votes with respect.

But he immediately qualified his offer of negotiations with a stern warning that surrendering control of the four regions would not be on the table.

The separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine have been backed by Moscow since declaring independence in 2014, weeks after the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

The southern Kherson region and part of neighbouring Zaporizhzhia were captured by Russia soon after Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Both houses of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament will meet next week to rubber-stamp the treaties for the regions to join Russia, sending them to Putin for his approval.

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