'A dangerous moment': Russia prepares to formalise Ukraine annexations as war rages on

ITV News Correspondent John Ray presents a special report from the frontline in southern Ukraine

In war, matters of life and death, defeat or victory, can depend upon timing.

So, through a misty Ukrainian morning we race with an artillery crew to their firing position. For these men, the clock is ticking.

They fear they have already been spotted by the Russians. A mortar flies overhead before their first shell is even loaded.

There are anxious glances to the skies and the sound of multiple explosions not far away.

Ukrainians are now the target.

There is just time for a second shot at the Russian lines. The incoming fire is silenced.

Just now, Ukraine believes it holds a decisive edge on the battlefield. There is an opportunity to advance here on the southern front, but the moment may be as fleeting as this morning’s mission.

The view from the frontline looks down to land Russia will soon declare its own by right.

A rigged referendum. A result recognised no where but the Kremlin.

But Moscow is already decked out ahead of a ceremony tomorrow when Vladimir Putin will speak to formalise the annexation of 15% of Ukrainian territory - an estimated four million citizens.

Vladimir Putin is expected to speak at a ceremony on Friday to formalise the four annexations. Credit: AP

It is a dangerous moment. President Putin isn’t looking for a way out of war. He’s mobilising hundreds of thousands of troops.

And this turns up the heat some more.

The annexed land becomes part of Mother Russia. Putin says he has the right to defend it "by all means".

The EU will retaliate with yet more sanctions, but Putin is betting that Western resolve will begin to crumble.

His nuclear threat means the stakes couldn’t be higher.

A president willing to do anything to win. A Ukrainian army determined to stop him.

For one side, time must eventually run out.

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