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Nine European heads say they 'will never recognise' annexed parts of Ukraine as Russian

Russia’s loss of Lyman is a new blow to the Kremlin as it seeks to escalate the war by illegally annexing four regions of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian tank on the way to Siversk in the Donetsk region
A Ukrainian tank on the way to Siversk in the Donetsk region
Image: Inna Varenytsia/AP

Updated Oct 2nd 2022, 5:02 PM

THE PRESIDENTS OF nine NATO countries in central and eastern Europe have declared that they will never recognise the annexation by Russia of Ukrainian territory.

Their reaction comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex four Moscow-occupied regions of Ukraine – Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia – following “referendums” the West has dismissed as “sham”.

The statement was issued by the presidents of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The presidents of those countries issued a joint statement saying they could not “stay silent in the face of the blatant violation of international law by the Russian Federation”.

“We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” they said.

“We do not recognise and will never recognise Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory.”

Four of the signatories – Poland, and the three Baltic states – are on NATO’s eastern flank with Russia.

Two others – Romania and Slovakia – have borders with Ukraine.

Hungary, which also borders Ukraine, was notably absent from the list. Its nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, has sought close ties with Putin in recent years and railed against European Union sanctions on the Kremlin.

Also absent were Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.

The statement, published on the website of the Polish president’s office, said the leaders of the signatory countries had “visited Kyiv during the war and witnessed with their own eyes the effects of Russian aggression”.

“We support Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion, demand Russia to immediately withdraw from all the occupied territories and encourage all (NATO) Allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine,” it said.

“All those who commit crimes of aggression must be held accountable and brought to justice.”

The presidents said they stood by a decision NATO made 14 years ago, supporting Ukraine’s wish to join the trans-Atlantic military alliance at a future date.

They did not comment on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, or on Ukraine’s request last Friday for fast-track NATO membership following Russia’s annexation manoeuvre.

NATO members have hesitated at accepting a country at war – which, by treaty, would oblige the alliance to come to its defence.

NATO’s Article 5 says an attack on one member is tantamount to attack on all.

Lyman
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier today that Lyman, a key town located in one of the four Ukrainian regions that Russia annexed, was “cleared” of Moscow’s troops.

The recapture of Lyman – which Moscow’s forces pummelled for weeks to control this spring – marks the first Ukrainian military victory in territory that the Kremlin has claimed as its own and has vowed to defend by all possible means.

“As of 12:30 pm (09:30 GMT) Lyman is completely cleared. Thank you to our military!” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on social media.

Ukraine’s army said it had entered Lyman yesterday, prompting Moscow to announce the “withdrawal” of its troops from the town towards “more favourable lines”.

In a video address late on Saturday, Zelenskyy pledged to retake more areas in the country’s eastern Donbas region within the week.

Annexation approved by Russian courts

With Russian losses mounting, experts have warned that Putin could turn to nuclear weapons to defend territory – an option floated by a Putin ally.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said that Russia should consider using “low-yield nuclear weapons” after Moscow’s troops were forced out of Lyman.

Despite condemnation from the West, Russia’s Constitutional Court has recognised as lawful the annexation accords signed by Putin with the Moscow-backed leaders of the four Ukrainian territories.

The annexation treaties will be considered by Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Monday, according to Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

The four territories create a crucial land corridor between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, also annexed by Moscow, in 2014.

Together the five regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine.

© AFP 2022

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