People attend a concert marking the declared annexation of the Russian-controlled territories near the Kremlin and Red Square in central Moscow [Reuters]

Russia’s move to proclaim the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces has drawn prompt rebuttals by Western countries.

Ukraine, Western countries and the United Nations have denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to proclaim the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces.

Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia were formally declared part of Russia on Friday, in a major escalation in the war that began on February 24.

Moscow claimed late on Tuesday that voters in the regions had overwhelmingly backed joining Russia after it run referendums over five days.

Kyiv and its Western allies had called these votes “a sham” and cautioned the Kremlin against moving forward with the annexation.

Below is a round-up of international reaction to Putin’s move.INTERACTIVE Which Ukrainian regions is Russia annexing-

Ukraine

Ukraine said its troops would continue liberating its territory occupied by Russia and that “nothing changes” after Putin’s annexation proclamation.

“By attempting to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, Putin tries to grab territories he doesn’t even physically control on the ground,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“Nothing changes for Ukraine: we continue liberating our land and our people, restoring our territorial integrity.”

Group of Seven

Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers said they would “never recognise” Russia’s annexation move, “nor the sham ‘referenda’ conducted at gunpoint”.

Putin’s annexation efforts “constitute a new low point in Russia’s blatant flouting of international law”, the ministers said in a statement.

The G7 is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies that includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

European Commission president

“The illegal annexation proclaimed by Putin won’t change anything. All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation,” Ursula von der Leyen said, adding that the commission was proposing “a new package of biting sanctions against Russia”.

European Council

“We firmly reject and unequivocally condemn the illegal annexation by Russia of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions,” the members of the European Council said in a statement.

“By wilfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, core principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, Russia is putting global security at risk,” the statement added.

The council said Russia had “engineered” the outcome of the vote held in the occupied provinces and had used its doctored results “as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“We will never recognise this illegal annexation,” it said.

In a message addressed to European citizens, European Council President Charles Michel said Putin’s move was “designed to intensify the nuclear threat against the rest of the world” and should be considered “an aggression against our fundamental freedoms and democratic principles”.

United States

The US imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia targeting hundreds of people and companies, including those in Russia’s military-industrial complex and members of the legislature.

“Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honour Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders,” President Joe Biden said, adding that his country would “rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter the US had taken “swift and severe measures in response to President Putin’s attempt to annex regions of Ukraine – a clear violation of international law”.

“We will continue to impose costs on anyone that provides political or economic support for this sham,” he said.

NATO

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the NATO military alliance, said Russia’s recent actions constituted the most serious escalation of the seven-month war.

“Putin has mobilised hundreds of thousands of more troops, engaged in irresponsible nuclear sabre rattling and now illegally annexed more Ukrainian territory. Together, this represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

He said NATO reaffirmed its “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would not be deterred from supporting the country in defending itself against Russia.

Poland

The Polish foreign ministry also condemned the signature of the annexation treaties as it called for an increase in military support for Kyiv and more sanctions.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns in the strongest terms the illegal acts of ‘recognition of independence’ and ‘incorporation’ into the Russian Federation of parts of Ukraine’s regions of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia,” it said in a statement.

The Netherlands

“The Netherlands will never recognise this annexation, just as we don’t recognise the annexation of Crimea,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, referring to Russia’s seizure of the peninsula in 2014.

Britain

“Putin cannot be allowed to alter international borders using brute force. We will ensure he loses this illegal war,” British Prime Minister Liz Truss said in a statement.

“Putin has, once again, acted in violation of international law with clear disregard for the lives of the Ukrainian people he claims to represent,” she said, adding the UK would never accept the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia as “anything other than Ukrainian territory”.

France

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Russia’s annexation saying the move represented “a serious violation of both international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

“France is opposed to this and stands by Ukraine’s side as it faces Russia’s aggression and recovers full sovereignty on the entirety of its territory,” the Élysée said.

Greece

“The decision is illegal as it violates blatantly international law and it is void,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.

Italy

Putin “once again demonstrates his Soviet-style, neo-imperialist vision that threatens the security of the entire European continent,” said Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, whose party came first in the country’s election last week.

“The declaration of annexation to the Russian Federation of four Ukrainian regions following sham referendums held under violent military occupation has no legal or political value,” Meloni said in a statement.

“This further violation by Russia of the rules of coexistence between nations confirms the need for unity by Western democracies,” she added.

Her comment reflected a statement by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi which said Italy would “never recognise” the annexation.

Sweden

“It’s nothing but a complete farce,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

“We condemn the illegal annexation in the strongest terms.”

United Nations

Speaking at a news conference before Putin’s annexation announcement on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned that formal annexation would further jeopardise the prospects for peace.

“It is time to step back from the brink” and “end this devastating and senseless war”, he said, noting that annexation would have “no legal value”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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