Putin officially declares Ukrainian regions are Russian in biggest land grab since World War 2 ramping up nuke fears

VLADIMIR Putin has officially declared four regions in Ukraine are now Russian in the biggest land grab since World War Two.

The tyrant is hosting a grand signing ceremony at the Kremlin today to welcome the four stolen regions of Ukraine to Russia as his seven-month war enters a terrifying new phase.

Vladimir Putin has declared four Ukrainian regions are Russian

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Vladimir Putin has declared four Ukrainian regions are RussianCredit: AP

Putin was late showing up to the huge gathering in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace

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Putin was late showing up to the huge gathering in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin PalaceCredit: RT

Russians carrying flags approach Moscow's Red Square to celebrate the land grab

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Russians carrying flags approach Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the land grabCredit: Reuters

People gather in central Moscow ahead of a rally and a concert in Red Square

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People gather in central Moscow ahead of a rally and a concert in Red SquareCredit: AFP

Putin will formally ink decrees declaring Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be Russian territory following a series of sham referendums.

The ruthless land grab was made official at the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace in a signing ceremony – although Putin was late showing up to the huge gathering of his cronies.

In a speech, he said: “People have made their choice – and that choice is beyond any doubt.”

The Russian leader vowed to “defend our land with all means” – and said the people living in the stolen Ukrainian regions are “our citizens forever”.

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He urged Kyiv to sit down for talks – but he warned he would not give up the regions.

He also held a minute silence for the “heroes of Russia” who have died in his disastrous invasion of Ukraine and stood up against what he called a “Neo-Nazi coup” in Ukraine in 2014.

The crowds looked glum as the tyrant rambled on for more than 20 minutes and appeared to clap on cue.

A stage with giant video screens has been put up on Moscow’s Red Square for the farcical celebrations, with a pop concert set to take place.

Russians were seen waving flags as they gathered ahead of the rally in the Russian capital.

The four regions annexed cover some 90,000sq km, or about 15 per cent of Ukraine – roughly the size of Hungary or Portugal.

Billboards across Moscow declared: “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”

The outrageous move from Putin has ramped up fears he could launch a nuclear strike to protect his so-called Russian territory.

As fierce Ukrainian forces push his troops back in the northeast of the country, there are concerns the tyrant will now try to reframe the lightning counteroffensive as an attack on Russia sovereignty.

He warned Russia was prepared to use “all the means at our disposal” to counter potential threats to its territory.

The Kremlin said any attack on newly annexed parts of Ukraine will be considered an attack on Russia itself – adding his troops would fight to take the whole of the eastern Donbas region.

And there are mounting concerns that Ukrainians living in Russian-controlled areas will be conscripted to fight in Putin’s war.

Putin will meet leaders of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as well as Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that his forces occupy.

On Wednesday, pro-Kremlin officials said all four regions had voted to join Russia.

Footage emerged of voters being led to the ballot boxes at gunpoint by pro-Russian paramilitary groups, while election officials were seen appearing to count stacks of unmarked ballot papers as ‘Yes’ votes.

Other video shows Russian-installed thugs taking ballot boxes door-to-door surrounded by armed men.

Putin’s cronies claimed 99 per cent of ballots cast in Donetsk were in favour of joining Russia, 98 per cent in Luhansk, 93 per cent in Zaporizhzhia and 87 per cent in Kherson.

Following the referendums, the Kremlin warned “the legal situation will radically change from the point of view of international law and that will also have consequences for security in these territories”.

The annexation of the regions gives Putin more room to argue his “special military operation” in Ukraine is now a defensive manoeuvre.

‘MANUFACTURED RESULTS’

But the farcical referendums have been declared illegal by the majority of the international community.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said it was a “dangerous escalation” that would damage future prospects for peace.

US President Joe Biden said the US would never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory.

“The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said.

The US and the EU are set to impose more sanctions on Russia over the annexation, and even some of Russia’s allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, have said they will not recognise the take over.

PM Liz Truss said the UK will never accept the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as part of Russia.

She said: “Vladimir Putin has, once again, acted in violation of international law with clear disregard for the lives of the Ukrainian people he claims to represent.

“The UK will never ignore the sovereign will of those people and we will never accept the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as anything other than Ukrainian territory.

“Putin cannot be allowed to alter international borders using brute force. We will ensure he loses this illegal war.”

In a response to the sham referendums, Zelensky called an emergency meeting on Friday of his National Security and Defense Council.

“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” he said in a Thursday evening address to the nation.

Mikhailo Podolyak, Zelensky’s adviser, told La Repubblica: “Referendums have no legal value, under international law the regions are and remain territories of Ukraine and Ukraine is ready to do anything to take them back.

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“They were sham votes, in which few people participated.

“To those who went to vote they pointed their rifles in their faces.”

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