Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, was set to host a ceremony on Friday to honor the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, but his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin needed to be stopped if Russia was to avoid the very worst effects of the conflict.
The expected annexation by Russia of the territory it now controls in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia has drawn strong criticism in the West. It was a “dangerous escalation,” according to U.N. chief Antonio Guterres, that would jeopardize chances for peace.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Thursday evening address.
The four regions collectively make up around 90,000 square km, or 15% of the entire territory of Ukraine, an area roughly equivalent to Hungary or Portugal.
Officials from the Russian government have stated that when the four regions are legally incorporated into Russia, they will be subjected to Moscow’s nuclear umbrella. Putin has stated that, if required, he would protect Russian territory with nuclear weapons.