Russia planning to annex Ukrainian territory warns expert
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Vladimir Putin is upping the ante by laying the groundwork to permanently keep Ukrainian-occupied territories and annex them to Russia, US intelligence reports. The “big escalatory step” means any attack perpetrated on Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory amounts to an attack on Moscow, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said, suggesting any aggression would turn into a Third World War.
Speaking of the implications of the annexation of Ukrainian territories, Richard Engel told NBC viewers: “This is not just a symbolic step.
“When other countries, the United States invaded Iraq, it was not to take Ira forever and make it part of the United States.
“This is what Russia is doing. It is fighting a war of occupation and annexation.
“So, by taking this territory annexing it, making it part of Russia, Russia will say then that any attack on the territory that it controls inside Ukrainian territory is like an attack on Moscow.”
Mr Engel said: “So, it is putting down another gauntlet so to speak to the US, to a supplier of weapons to Ukraine and saying: if those weapons that the United States has given to Ukraine right now hit territory inside Ukraine from Russia’s perspective, it will be like it’s attacking Moscow.
“It is attacking the centre of the country. So, it is a big escalatory step.
“And it comes as Vladimir Putin is trying to show that he has friends. He was in Iran making a very, very rare trip outside of the country because he wants drones and he wants to show that he’s not as isolated as we think he is.”
Mr Kirby said Russia is using the same “playbook” Russia used in 2014 to annex the Crimea peninsula.
“Already, Russia is installing illegitimate proxy officials in the areas of Ukraine that are under its control,” Mr Kirby said.
He warned of the new steps Russia will take to gain firmer control of the occupied terriroties.
Mr Kirby said: “His proxy officials will organise sham referenda on joining Russia. Then, Russia will use those sham referenda as a basis to try to claim annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.”
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This step follows a series of measures taken by the Kremlin to gain support from the two Russian-backed separatist provinces of Donbas, namely Donetsk and Luhansk.
Putin unilaterally recognised the independence of the two provinces to justify his invasion of Ukraine in the days leading up to the unprovoked aggression.
The regions cited in the US intelligence reports also include Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south of Ukraine.
Putin signed a decree in May to make it easier for residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to get Russian passports. He later expanded the decree to all citizens of Ukraine.
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