Israel joined a wide chorus rejecting Russia’s annexation of four occupied regions of Ukraine Friday, reiterating its full support for Kyiv’s sovereignty.
In a statement issued shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to incorporate the partially occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would not recognize the move.
“Israel supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, we won’t recognize the annexation of the four areas by Russia. Israel has repeated this clear position many times, including in recent days,” the ministry’s official statement read.
Israel had earlier in the week rejected referenda held in the territories to justify the annexation moves, marking a shift toward clearly opposing Moscow after earlier trying to walk a tightrope between Russia and Ukraine.
The Foreign Ministry earlier advised Israeli-Russian dual citizens currently in Russia or planning to go there that they could be drafted into the military, though it stopped short of directly warning against travel there.
Other countries also slammed Moscow over the move, which has been derided as illegal and has ramped up fears that Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend the annexed regions.
The United States announced “severe” new sanctions on Russia in response to what President Joe Biden called Moscow’s “fraudulent” claim to have annexed the areas.
“The United States is imposing swift and severe costs on Russia,” the White House said in a statement. It also announced that G7 allies support imposing “costs” on any country that backs the Kremlin’s attempt to incorporate the Ukrainian regions.
In a statement, Biden said “the United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere.”
“The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week,” he continued.
The Biden administration said the sanctions will target scores of Russian parliament members, government officials, family members and also industries supplying the Russian military, “including international suppliers.”
In a warning to the small number of countries potentially willing to recognize Russia’s self-declared sovereignty over the four invaded regions, the administration said the G7 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — had agreed to punish any such support.
“We are also issuing a clear warning supported by G7 leaders: We will hold to account any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support for Russia’s illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
In its own statement, the G7 condemned Moscow’s annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory as “a new low point in Russia’s blatant flouting of international law.”
The G7 called the move “another example of Russia’s unacceptable violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty, the UN Charter, and the commonly agreed principles and commitments of the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter.”
The group, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, said they “will never recognize these purported annexations, nor the sham ‘referenda’ conducted at gunpoint.”
The G7 said it would impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities – inside and outside of Russia – “that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law.”
EU leaders also said they would “never recognize” Russia’s illegal annexation and accused the Kremlin of imperiling global security.
“We firmly reject and unequivocally condemn the illegal annexation by Russia of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions,” the 27 leaders said.
“Russia is putting global security at risk,” the EU leaders said, accusing Moscow of “willfully undermining the rules-based international order and blatantly violating the fundamental rights of Ukraine to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, core principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and international law.”
They called on “all states and international organizations to unequivocally reject this illegal annexation.”
“These decisions are null and void and cannot produce any legal effect whatsoever. Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk are Ukraine,” the EU statement said.
The bloc said it remains committed to supporting Ukraine’s “legitimate right” to regain control of all its territory within its internationally recognized borders.
Putin has warned he could use nuclear weapons to retain control of the territories.
“The nuclear threats made by the Kremlin, the military mobilization, and the strategy of seeking to falsely present Ukraine’s territory as Russia’s and purporting that the war may now be taking place on Russia’s territory will not shake our resolve,” the EU leaders said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30-member military alliance had conveyed to Russia that there would be “severe consequences” if it uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
He also rejected Russia’s “illegal and illegitimate” annexation of four regions of Ukraine, calling it “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War.”
Asked whether Ukrainian troops should refrain from attacking the annexed regions Stoltenberg said: “They can defend themselves, they can also continue to liberate territory.”
Stepping back, he said, would be to “accept nuclear blackmailing.”
The EU, which is currently eyeing a new wave of economic measures against the Kremlin that would target Moscow’s exports worth some $7 billion and seek to impose a price cap on Russian oil, said it would “strengthen our restrictive measures countering Russia’s illegal actions.”
Britain separately imposed a raft of new sanctions on Russia, including a freeze on the assets of the country’s central bank governor and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly summoned Russian Ambassador Andrey Kelin to protest the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The sanctions include freezing the personal assets of central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina, who has been instrumental in steering the Russian economy since the invasion of Ukraine and extending the ruble into Ukrainian territory under Russian control. She will also be barred from traveling to the UK.
Far-right Italian leader Giorgia Meloni, who won the Italian election last week, said Russia’s annexation had no legal or political basis, warning Moscow’s “neo-imperialism” threatens all of Europe.
“The declaration of annexation to the Russian Federation of four Ukrainian regions following sham referendums held under violent military occupation has no legal or political value,” Meloni said in a statement.
Putin “once again demonstrates his neo-imperialist, Soviet-style vision, which threatens the security of the entire European continent”, she said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, condemned the annexation as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“I told him that the process that Russia called a referendum and its annexation of parts of Ukraine should never be accepted and that I strongly condemn them,” Kishida said afterward.
Kishida said he also reassured Zelensky in their 30-minute conversation that Japan is committed to working with other G7 nations and the broader international community in further supporting Ukraine, and plans to impose more sanctions against Russia.
“This further violation by Russia of the rules of coexistence between nations confirms the need for unity by Western democracies.”
In 2014, Putin annexed another region, Crimea, where Russian troops faced almost no opposition from the then badly organized Ukrainian military.
This February, he launched a full-scale invasion of eastern, southern and northern Ukraine in a bid to topple the pro-Western government, but the revamped Ukrainian military has since partly repelled the invaders and continues to push Russian lines back.