UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday condemned Russia’s plans to declare the annexation of occupied parts of Ukraine, calling it "a dangerous escalation" that "has no place in the modern world."
"Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned," Guterres said in a statement.
"It must not be accepted." Earlier Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the four regions, large parts of which are occupied by Russian forces, would be formally incorporated into Russia in a Kremlin ceremony on Friday.
Guterres said any annexation of a country’s territory based on the use of force violates the UN Charter and international law. He said much-criticized referendums held by Russia in the occupied regions took place in the middle of a war under Russian armed occupation and outside Ukraine’s own constitutional framework.
"They cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will," he said. "The Russian Federation, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, shares a particular responsibility to respect the Charter," he added.
"Any decision by Russia to go forward will further jeopardize the prospects for peace."Meanwhile, Moscow will formally annex four Russia-occupied regions of Ukraine at a Kremlin ceremony on Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said on Thursday.
"Tomorrow in the Georgian Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace at 15:00 (1200 GMT) a signing ceremony will take place on the incorporation of the new territories into Russia," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He added that the Russian president will make a major speech at the event.
Ukraine’s Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions are occupied by the Russian army, which Putin sent over the border in February. Moscow organised what it called referendums in the four regions that it controls, with Kremlin-installed officials saying this week residents backed joining Russia.
All four Moscow-backed leaders of the regions said they were in Moscow and expecting a meeting with Putin. The move comes eight years after Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and would mark a significant escalation in the conflict.
The West has warned Russia not to press ahead with he annexations, with the G7 saying it would "never recognise" the move. Kyiv has asked for more military aid as a response.The Russian foreign ministry in a statement that the regions made a "conscious and free choice" in favour of annexation.
Only Donetsk, which along with Lugansk makes up the industrial Donbas region partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014, had yet to formally ask Mr Putin for annexation. Earlier this week, Zelensky sought to rally international support for his country against possible Russian annexations in a series of calls with foreign leaders, including those of Britain, Canada, Germany and Turkey.