Putin says situation in annexed regions ‘extremely difficult’

American Age Official

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the situation in four territories of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed but does not control militarily was “extremely difficult”.

Putin in September announced the annexation of four regions in the east and south of Ukraine after Moscow proxies held referendums there, denounced as a sham by Kyiv and the West.

His troops never fully controlled any of the territories and last month were forced to retreat from the regional capital of the southern Kherson region after a months-long Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“The situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult,” Putin told the Russian security services on their professional holiday.

Singling out those working in the “new regions of Russia”, he added that “the people living there, the citizens of Russia, rely on you, on your protection”.

Putin said that “maximum composure and concentration of forces” was required of Russia’s counterintelligence operations.

“It is necessary to strictly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services, to quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs,” he added.

Putin’s comments come one day after his first visit in several years to neighbouring Belarus for talks with strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, who allowed Russian troops to initiate their military intervention in Ukraine from his territory in February.

Ukraine said after the visit that there was a growing threat of another potential attack from Belarusian territory but that its forces were taking steps to prepare.

“We closely monitor the weapons being transferred from Russia,” said commander of Ukraine’s joint forces, general lieutenant Sergiy Nayev.

“The level of the military threat is gradually increasing but we are also taking adequate measures”.

Putin denied plans to absorb Belarus during the visit Monday but the two ex-Soviet allies vowed closer military cooperation going forward.

bur/imm

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