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Putin Proclaims Annexation As Russian Garrison Surrounded In Ukraine

BUCHAREST, Romania - President Vladimir Putin proclaimed Russia's annexation of a swath of Ukraine on Friday in a speech at the Kremlin but the event was overshadowed by of Russia's worst battlefield defeats of the war, with one of its main garrisons surrounded.

'People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson region and Zaporizhzhia region are becoming our compatriots forever', Putin told a crowd of officials in a ceremony in an ornate hall.

'We will defend our land with all our strength and all our means', he said, calling on 'the Kyiv regime to immediately cease hostilities and return to the negotiation table'.

Putin's proclamation of Russian rule over 15% of Ukraine - the biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two - has been firmly rejected by Western countries and even many of Russia's close allies. U.N. General Secretary Antonio Guterres called it an illegal violation of the U.N. charter.

It comes as Russian forces have faced setbacks on the battlefield, with one of the worst so far looming even as Putin spoke. Pro - Russian officials acknowledged that Russian troops were on the verge of encirclement in Lyman, their main garrison in the north of Donetsk province.

Defeat there could open the way for Ukraine to recapture swathes of the territory that Putin has now declared to be part of Russia.

The war's brutality was further hammered home just hours before Putin's speech when missiles struck a convoy of civilian cars preparing to cross the frontline from Ukrainian - held territory in Zaporizhzhia province. Reuters saw a dozen bodies amid blasted cars in a scent of carnage. Ukraine said 25 people had been killed and 74 wounded.

'The enemy is raging and seeking revenge for our steadfastness and his failures', Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensiy wrote on Telegram. 'Bloodthirsty scum! You will definitely answer. For every lost Ukrainian life!'.



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