Russia to Annex More Ukrainian Territory Tomorrow

Plus: Tree fountains in Montenegro, new Nord Stream leaks, Turkish celebrities cut their hair for Iranian protests and more.

The Big Story: Kremlin plans party to showcase confiscation of Ukrainian regions

What happened: The Russian government intends to announce that annexation of four Ukrainian regions during a grand ceremony in the Kremlin tomorrow, Reuters reports. The move comes just two days after Moscow-organized referendums in the regions – widely denounced as violating international law – produced results said to show overwhelming support for joining Russia. Few countries are expected to lend legitimacy to the annexations, including even some of Moscow’s close traditional allies Serbia and Kazakhstanhave announced that they will not recognize Russia’s land grabs in the Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

More context: Russia had once planned to hold staged referendums in the US as well Kharkiv region until Ukraine’s surprise counter-offensive retook many occupied territories, according to Ukrainian intelligence documents cited by Ukrainska Pravda via RFE/RL. two more mass graves hundreds of bodies were recently found in the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week. Washington announced plans to send 18 more HIMARS missile systems to Ukraine, doubling the number of high-yield weapons shipped to Kyiv, Politico reports.

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Worthless: Ukrainian authorities have recorded about 52,000 Crimes that Russia has committed so far during its invasion of Ukraine, reports Ukrinform. Meanwhile, the exodus of at least 200,000 Russians since Putin mobilization Last week’s announcement forced Russian authorities to restrict access Georgian border, reports DW. A local official said 20,000 people entered Georgia in two days.

News from the regions

Central Europe and the Baltic States

  • A fourth leak was discovered in the Baltic Sea Nord Stream pipelines amid reports of underwater explosions that could indicate sabotage, reports AFP. German authorities say the damage to the pipelines is irreparable. Despite the Kremlin pointing the finger at “state involvement” while launching an investigation into “international terrorism,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said the destruction benefited the Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom.
  • Austria has joined Czech Republic in introducing temporary controls at the border with Slovakia, reports The Slovak Spectator. The moves come in response to a significant increase in irregular immigration. Bratislava is considering similar controls at its border Hungaryaccording to Euractiv.
  • That Estonian Parliament is preparing a draft statement declaring that Russia will: a terrorist statesaid the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, reports ERR.
  • Unlike in Hungary, the electoral victory of a far-right party in Italy does not mean a pro-Russian government, according to an analysis by bne Intellinews. Meanwhile, left-wing former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the election victory of the Brothers of Italy party poses no threat to Italian democracy, telling CNN: “There is no threat fascism in Italy. This is absolute fake news.”
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Southeastern Europe

  • The Czech EU Presidency will resume discussions on visa liberalization for Kosovo in the near future, according to Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky and Kosovar diplomats, reports Euractiv. Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans that does not enjoy visa-free entry into the Schengen area.
  • A natural “tree well” in Montenegro — produced by spring water flowing up the trunk and out of a hole in an ancient mulberry tree — could become a major tourist attraction, BIRN writes.
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Eastern Europe and Russia

  • Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka visited the Russian-occupied region Abkhazia in Georgia yesterday his first trip to the territory as president, reports Eurasianet. Lukashenka came to visit first Wladimir Putin in nearby Sochi, Russia. There are now two briefly opened border crossings between Georgia and its other Russian-held region South Ossetia.
  • Apple announced yesterday that it has removed the popular Russian social network Vcontacts from its app store to comply with sanctions imposed by the UK, reports AFP.

Central Asia

  • Turkish Celebrities and activists, including a jailed Kurdish politician, publicly cut their hair in support of Iranian protests in memory of Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being arrested by Tehran moral police for wearing her headscarf incorrectly, reports Al-Monitor.
  • rent a Kazakhstan are skyrocketing as the tide of young Russian men fleeing the country to avoid conscription continues, writes Eurasianet.