Odesa [Ukraine], October 1 (ANI): European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made a visit to Odesa on Saturday, marking the one-year anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions. The purpose of his visit was to show solidarity and support for Ukraine during this challenging time, CNN reported.
Speaking from inside the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa, Borrell emphasised that Odesa should be known for its beauty and rich history but has unfortunately been in the headlines due to Russia's barbaric attacks. He expressed his concern about the consequences of the war, highlighting the high price Ukraine, and Odesa, in particular, have paid.
"I've been witnessing the consequences of this war, and how Odesa and Ukraine are paying a high price for it," he said.
Borrell added the EU will continue supporting Ukraine in its fight to regain its territorial integrity and achieve a just peace.
On September 30, 2022, Vladimir Putin declared Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. These regions collectively account for 1,00,000 square kilometres (38,600 square miles) of Ukrainian territory, constituting a fifth of the country's landmass. This act marked the largest forcible land annexation in Europe since 1945.
Russia's decision to seize these territories violated international law and was accompanied by widely criticized referendums, where people voted under duress or in some cases literally, at gunpoint, CNN reported.
Putin did not stop and declared that the millions of people living there would be Russian citizens "forever."One year later, Putin falsely claimed that the vote had been conducted in compliance with international law and celebrated the annexation. Moscow's Red Square saw hundreds gathered for a celebratory concert to mark the occasion, according to CNN.
The anniversary also witnessed further Kremlin efforts to consolidate control over the annexed regions. A new decree allowed Ukrainians to enter Russia without visas, even with expired documents and facilitated the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for Ukrainians and citizens of former Soviet states.
Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia have been epicentres of intense fighting. Donetsk and Luhansk make up the Donbas region, where Russian-backed breakaway republics have been battling Kyiv since 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia were initially occupied by Russian forces during the invasion.
Ukraine remains determined to reclaim all four regions, with its troops engaged in battles to push back Russian forces. Civilians in these areas have been caught in the crossfire, and now they face the threat of conscription into the Russian military.
On the anniversary of the annexation, Putin approved a decree to conscript 1,30,000 individuals, including those living in the illegally annexed Ukrainian regions, marking a significant expansion of Russia's military draft.
In response to Russia's attempted annexation, Western powers imposed sanctions. The United Kingdom announced a new set of punitive measures, including designations targeting Russia's Central Election Commission, in response to Russia's recent regional elections.
"Russia's sham elections are a transparent, futile attempt to legitimize its illegal control of sovereign Ukrainian territory. You can't hold 'elections' in someone else's country," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement, CNN reported. (ANI)