Unable to take Ukraine by force, Putin attempted to slice off a part of it with the stroke of a pen - illegally 'annexing' four regions, to make them officially part of Russia. ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports
Vladimir Putin signed “accession treaties" to illegally annex occupied Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of his war - before taking centre stage in Moscow's Red Square. At an organised concert in Russia's capital, the Russian president was joined by other Russian leaders who all sang the national anthem before addressing crowds.
"Russia does not only open the door to our brothers and sisters but it also opens its heart to them. Welcome home," Putin said.
Putin made use of his short speech to double down on previous claims made by him to justify the invasion of Ukraine. It comes after the president vowed to annex parts of Ukraine after hosting a series of sham referendums.
ITV News Correspondent John Ray returned to Dnipro tonight, where he says it's clear that Vladimir Putin is trying to turn his forces' inability to advance into something more positive for Russian audiences.
The US moved to sanctioned more than 1,000 people and firms connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after the announcement.
This includes its Central Bank governor and families of Security Council members.
As President Biden vowed Russia wouldn't 'get away with' Ukraine annexation. ITV News US Correspondent Robert Moore has the latest
Biden told reporters. He added that Putin "can’t seize his neighbour's territory and get away with it” and that “America and its allies are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats,"
The UK government also announced its intentions to implement services sanctions and export bans that target Russian economic vulnerabilities.
Prime Minister Liz Truss condemned Putin's signing of a number of “accession treaties” absorbing occupied regions of Ukraine into Russia, in defiance of international law.
She blasted the move by Russia’s leader, saying Britain will never accept his claim to the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and said they amount to a “violation of international law”.
Under the new sanctions, Russia will lose access to UK services including IT consultancy, architectural services, engineering services, and transactional legal advisory services for certain commercial activity.
Britain is also banning the export of nearly 700 goods crucial to Russia’s industrial and technological sectors, while the governor of the Russian central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, joins the list of senior figures subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
US President Joe Biden said: "Make no mistake: These actions have no legitimacy.”
He said the new financial penalties will impose costs on people and companies inside and outside of Russia “that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory".
President Biden added: “I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine.”
The US Treasury Department named hundreds of members of Russia’s legislature, leaders of the country’s financial and military infrastructure and suppliers for sanctions designations.
The Commerce Department added 57 companies to its list of export control violators, and the State Department added more than 900 people to its visa restriction list.
During an earlier speech at the opulent St George’s Hall, Putin was met with applause after he said Russia would attempt to annex the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
None of the four regions Putin named are completely controlled by Russian forces.
Russia controls most of the Luhansk and Kherson regions, about 60% of the Donetsk region and a large chunk of the Zaporizhzhia region where it took control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Daily fighting takes place across all of the regions, with a Russian strike killing at least 25 people who were part of a humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhzhia on Friday.
The claimed annexations have been roundly condemned across the world.
The fact Putin has decided to press ahead with the move could risk escalating the war even further because the Kremlin will now claim Russia's own territory is under attack.
Russia has long said it would react with force if its country was ever attacked and has said this would justify the use of nuclear weapons.
In a speech preceding a treaty-signing ceremony to make four Ukrainian regions part of Russia, Putin warned his country would never give up the occupied areas and would protect them as part of its sovereign territory.
Putin also urged Ukraine to sit down for talks but warned Moscow would not give up the newly incorporated regions.
Both houses of the Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament will meet next week to rubber-stamp the treaties for the regions to join Russia, sending them to Putin for his approval.
The West has promised even more sanctions on Russia in response to the move.
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