Belgium and other EU member states reject Russia's illegal annexation of Ukrainian regions
Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) "firmly reject and condemn the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions by Russia." Earlier today in the Russian capital Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed four agreements annexing the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk and Lugansk.
"The Soviet Union is not coming back, nor is that our goal," Putin said in a speech before the signing. "But several citizens want to return to their own historical homeland. Men, women, everyone was afraid in Donetsk and Luhansk. But the will of the people was not broken," he said.
"We advise Kiev to organise a ceasefire immediately," Putin added. "We are ready and willing to start negotiations. But the choice of four territories has been made: Russia will not drop the four new territories. The current rulers in Kiev must respect the will of the people. We will defend everyone on our territory with all the means we have."
In a speech, Putin again lashed out harshly at the West.
Meanwhile, the first reactions to the annexation are seeping in. Like Belgian Prime Minister De Croo, European President Charles Michel reacted dismayed to the news. "27 leaders condemn the illegal annexation," Michel said. "We do not and will never recognise the sham 'referenda'. We will never recognise this illegal annexation."
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that "the illegal annexation proclaimed by Putin won’t change anything."
Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib announces from Paris that she is summoning the Russian ambassador in Brussels over the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions.
"After the Russian president's speech, I asked my cabinet to immediately summon the Russian ambassador to convey a clear message to him: Belgium will not and will never recognise the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions. Annexing these territories after illegal sham referendums is illegal under international law. Ukrainian territory must remain Ukrainian," the foreign minister stressed.
© JOHN THYS / AFP - President of the European Council Charles Michel, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speak together ahead of EU leaders extraordinary meeting to discuss Ukraine, defence and energy in Brussels, on May 31, 2022.