Biden condemns Russia’s ‘fraudulent’ annexation

US President Joe Biden has condemned Russia’s “fraudulent” attempt to annex four areas of Ukraine, which he says violates international law.

“Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” Biden said in a statement.

He added that the US will “always honour” Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders”.

“We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week,” Biden said.

In his speech today, Vladimir Putin said the United States had created a “precedent” by using nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War Two.

That comment won’t have gone unnoticed by Western governments.

Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling has been causing concern in the West. But it’s worrying people inside Russia, too. This week, an editorial in the country’s mainstream Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper was heavily critical of “senior Russian officials” for making “nuclear threats”.

“It is incredible that today… high-ranking officials in Russia start talking about the nuclear button,” the editorial continued. “They do this without a second thought… They even forget to make the qualification so important for the world to hear: ‘Of course, we mustn’t allow this under any circumstance.’

“To allow, in thoughts and words, the possibility of a nuclear conflict is a sure step to allowing it in reality.”

Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex the four Ukrainian territories (“incorporate” in Kremlinspeak) is the Russian president’s latest offensive in his battle with Ukraine and the West.

Through annexation, the Kremlin is trying to change the facts on the ground (at a time when Russia has been losing ground in Ukraine).

Putin wants to present a fait accompli to Kyiv and to the West.

It raises the stakes considerably in the president’s standoff with Ukraine and the Western world.

The Kremlin event was carefully choreographed for maximum patriotic effect: plenty of applause for the president from the invited audience; a stirring rendition of the national anthem; and Putin and the four Kremlin-appointed administrators of the annexed territories clasping hands and chanting “Russia! Russia!” along with everyone in the hall.

But declaring “this is my land now” doesn’t make it true. Especially in the light of the so-called “referendums” in the occupied territories, which were not real referendums at all. They were Kremlin-conceived, Kremlin-controlled events designed as a smokescreen for Moscow to grab 15% of Ukraine’s territory.

Ukraine will not accept this annexation; neither will the international community as a whole.

Zelensky: We’ll only hold talks with different Russian president

More now from President Zelensky, who’s been speaking following an urgent meeting of Ukraine’s Security and Defence Council.

On Ukraine’s fast-track application for Nato membership, the Ukrainian president says Finland and Sweden started the procedure of joining the alliance without taking part in the formal membership plan – and so it’s fair for Ukraine to do the same.