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This week, President Vladimir Putin said he would sign documents annexing the four Ukrainian regions on Friday, Reuters reported. Russia is racing to secure these territorial claims as the Ukrainian army has been recapturing territory held by Russia, a humiliating defeat for the bigger power. The annexation, which came after what Kyiv and Western countries claim were phony referendums orchestrated at gunpoint on Russian-held Ukrainian territory, has been condemned in the West as an illegitimate land-grab. Meanwhile, Serbia, Russia’s staunch ally in the Balkans, announced it would not recognize the results of the referendums, Radio Free Europe added.
In other news:
- NATO said Thursday that attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines between Russia and Europe were the product of sabotage and that attacks on the military alliance’s members’ infrastructure will trigger a collective reaction, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Russia has denied involvement in the pipeline sabotage, calling it a “terrorist attack, possibly at the state level.”
- At least 200,000 Russians fled the nation following Putin’s mobilization order, generating chaos at some border points and raising concerns in neighboring countries about potential instability, according to Bloomberg. Kazakh volunteers have been trying to aid the fleeing Russians by offering to house and register newcomers, Agence France-Presse wrote. In Finland, the government said Thursday it would significantly limit passenger traffic on its border with Russia, banning Russian citizens traveling with tourist visas from entering the Nordic country, the Associated Press added.
- The European Commission is proposing a price cap on Russian oil as part of a new package of sanctions against Moscow. According to a draft of the sanctions proposal seen by Politico, the package also aims to punish Russia’s steel industry and deny the Russian military critical technologies. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed a gas deal with the United Arab Emirates this week to secure alternative supplies for Germany’s energy-hungry economy, Politico reported.
- Japan demanded a formal apology from Russia and warned of reprisals after saying its diplomatic consul in Vladivostok, Russia was “blindfolded and restrained” while being interrogated by the federal security service over suspected espionage, the New York Post reported. Japan-Russia relations have plummeted since the invasion of Ukraine, when Japan slapped broad economic sanctions on Russia, according to the Washington Post.
- Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close acquaintance of Putin, admitted on Monday that he founded the Wagner Group, a clandestine private military group that has fought on Russia’s side in Ukraine, the New York Times reported. The statement is Prigozhin’s first public acknowledgment of his affiliation with the group, whose fighters have been deployed in support of the Kremlin’s military goals in Africa and the Middle East, occasionally clashing with US forces.