Vladimir Putin expects to “stabilize” the situation in the annexed Ukrainian territories

Vladimir Putin today signed his annexation of four Ukrainian territories. (File)

Moscow:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he expected the situation in Kremlin-annexed Ukrainian regions to “stabilize” after Moscow suffered military setbacks and lost several key cities to Kiev.

He also ordered his government to seize control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya region, with IAEA head Rafael Grossi heading to Kiev for talks over the facility.

Ukraine previously claimed victories over Russian forces in the eastern region of Lugansk when the Kremlin vowed to recapture territory lost in a lightning-fast Ukrainian counter-offensive.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces, supported by Western weapons, have expelled Russian troops from a series of towns and villages in the southern Kherson region and the eastern separatist strongholds of Lugansk and Donetsk.

“We assume that the situation in the new areas will stabilize,” Putin told Russian teachers during a televised video call.

A few hours earlier, the Ukrainian-appointed head of Lugansk Sergiy Gaiday announced that the “eviction of the Lugansk region has already officially begun”.

A senior Russian legislator called on military officials to tell the truth about developments on the ground in Ukraine after its string of devastating defeats.

“We must stop lying,” the chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, told a journalist from the state media.

“The Department of Defense reports don’t change. The people know it. Our people are not stupid. This could lead to loss of credibility.”

Regions will remain ‘forever Russian’

Putin signed into law his annexation of four Ukrainian territories — including Lugansk — on Wednesday, while the European Union agreed a new round of sanctions against Moscow in response.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would take back the land lost to Kiev within the annexed regions, swearing that they “would be Russian forever and will not be returned”.

Putin initially signed agreements with the Moscow-installed leaders of the four regions to become citizens of the Russian Federation, despite condemnation from Kiev and the West.

The four territories – Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia – create a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Together, the five regions make up about 20 percent of Ukraine.

The Kremlin annexed the areas after hastily held referendums that were declared invalid by Kiev and its western allies, but has not yet confirmed which areas of those regions will be annexed.

Russian forces do not have full control over Kherson or Zaporizhia and have recently lost control of several settlements in Donetsk.

The latest battlefield maps of Moscow showed that Russian troops had left many areas in Kherson, including along the western bank of the Dnipro River.

‘Lived like rats’

In Kharkiv, the maps indicated that Moscow’s forces had almost completely deserted the eastern bank of the Oskil River, potentially giving the Ukrainians room to shell key Russian troop transport and supply corridors.

While Russian authorities have been largely silent about the magnitude of the setbacks, pro-Kremlin media war correspondents admitted the troops were in trouble.

“There will be no good news in the near future. Not from the Kherson front nor from Lugansk,” newspaper journalist Alexander Kots wrote on his Telegram channel with more than 640,000 followers.

In the city of Lyman, Ukrainian policemen retreated to the station used by the Russian occupying forces until last week.

“They lived like rats,” the city’s police chief Igor Ugnivenko said as he returned to his pre-invasion office and inspected the rubble.

In front of the central administration building, rows of mostly elderly residents stood in front of two ambulances distributing meager humanitarian aid.

“I don’t know if the situation is better or worse,” said 62-year-old Tatiana Slavuta of the recapture of the city by Ukrainian troops.

“All the shops are closed, we have no money, we have no light. Nothing.

“We don’t see any change,” she added before correcting herself and perking up.

‘Now it’s quiet’

“At least now there is silence – no shelling.”

Putin’s decision to take control of the Zaporizhzhya factory comes after months of tensions around the factory, with both sides blaming each other for strikes that had heightened fears of a radiation disaster.

“On the way to Kiev for important meetings,” Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote on Twitter, saying the need for a conservation zone around the site was “more urgent than ever.”

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden told Zelensky that another $625 million in military aid is on the way.

The new batch includes more multiple HIMARS missile launchers, which have enabled Ukraine to attack Russian command depots and weapons stockpiles far behind the frontline.

There were no details from the EU about the nature of new sanctions against Russia.

The latest package – the eighth since Russia’s invasion in February – is now undergoing a final approval process that, if no objections are raised, will be published and take effect Thursday, the Czech Republic’s EU ambassador said on Twitter.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)

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