President Biden denounces 'sham' Russian annexation of Ukrainian lands

WASHINGTON — President Biden sharply denounced Russia's annexation of four Ukrainian territories, a widely-condemned move that was formalized in a Kremlin ceremony on Friday afternoon.

“America and its allies are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats,” Biden said Friday from the White House. As he and other administration officials have done previously, the president described the referenda that Putin used to justify the annexation as a “sham.”

Although vote tallies showed strong support for annexation of the four regions that had been wrested from Ukraine by military force —Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson — that is only because the election itself has been denounced as fraudulent, with citizens coerced to vote in favor of the measure.

"The United States is never going to recognize this; and, frankly, the world won't recognize it, either," Biden said. His administration has vowed to continue supplying weapons to Ukraine, which recently launched a successful counteroffensive that saw Russian forces rapidly retreat.

In response to Russia's recent losses, Putin has ordered a "partial mobilization" of 300,000 troops in an effort to rescue a faltering war effort that some Kremlin advisers had initially believed would be over in a matter of days with a relatively painless Ukrainian defeat. Instead, Russia finds itself increasingly isolated from the West, while discontent appears to be growing at home, especially since the mobilization order went into effect.

At the Kremlin annexation ceremony, Putin also delivered an unsparing, bitter indictment of the West, which he criticized for its supposed "satanism" and what he described as its inveterate colonial intentions.

Putin argued that, despite Western condemnation, the annexed regions were now part of Russia – and would remain as such.

"I would like to remind you that in the past, ambitions of world domination have repeatedly shattered against the courage and resilience of our people," Putin said, in reference to the defeated attempts at conquest by Napoleon and Hitler. "Russia will always be Russia. We will continue to defend our values and our Motherland."

Putin even suggested that the firebombing of German cities during World War II by British and U.S. air forces had no military value and was solely intended as a show of might to intimidate the Soviet Union.

The speech alarmed Western observers who worried that Putin might seek to escalate the conflict, perhaps through the use of nuclear weapons.

In response to the annexation and Putin's threats, the Treasury Department issued new sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals, while Biden said he was preparing to send another $12 billion in military aid, approved by Congress, to Ukraine.

He also warned Putin that any transgression against a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, would trigger the alliance’s common defense clause.

“America’s fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory,” Biden said. “Every single inch.”