Ukraine round-up: Putin claims parts of Ukraine and horror as rocket strike kills dozens

Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced that four areas of Ukraine were now "forever" Russian territory, after referendums in the areas which have been deemed a "sham" by Ukraine and its allies.

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OCT 1: In an angry speech in Moscow filled with accusations against the West, he claimed that people in Russian-held Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions had made their choice to join Russia.

But there was no independent monitoring of the hastily-organised votes and there were widespread accounts of people being intimidated into voting by armed soldiers.

Mr Putin was joined at the ceremony by the Russian-appointed leaders of the occupied regions and crowds later gathered in Red Square for a concert to mark the annexation.

Russia's move was widely condemned, with many countries increasing sanctions. The G7's foreign ministers described it as a "new low" and the US said Russia had shown "contempt for peaceful nations everywhere".

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky responded by applying to Nato for fast-tracked membership of the US-led defence alliance.

Ukrainian authorities also reported that their forces were close to re-taking the town of Lyman, which lies in a key strategic position in the east of the country.

Putin's bile-filled rhetoric

Vladimir Putin's decision to annex the four Ukrainian territories ("incorporate" in Kremlinspeak) is the Russian president's latest offensive in his battle with Ukraine and the West.

Through annexation, the Kremlin is trying to change the facts on the ground (at a time when Russia has been losing ground in Ukraine).

Mr Putin wants to present a fait accompli to Kyiv and to the West.

It raises the stakes considerably in the president's standoff with Ukraine and the Western world.

The Kremlin event was carefully choreographed for maximum patriotic effect: plenty of applause for the president from the invited audience; a stirring rendition of the national anthem; and Mr Putin and the four Kremlin-appointed administrators of the annexed territories clasping hands and chanting "Russia! Russia!" along with everyone in the hall.

But declaring "this is my land now" doesn't make it true.

What does annexation actually mean?

So Putin has declared four occupied regions of Ukraine "annexed", but what does this actually mean in practice?

Well, it's not clear, says the BBC's Europe digital editor, Paul Kirby.

Even Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was unable to define where Russia would draw its new borders in occupied southern Ukraine.

However, he did say on Friday that any strike on annexed territory would be regarded as an act of aggression.

 

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