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ZAPORIZHZHIA: A defiant Vladimir Putin proclaimed Russia’s annexation of a swathe of Ukraine in a pomp-filled Kremlin ceremony, promising Moscow would triumph in its “special military operation” against Kyiv even as some of his troops faced potential defeat.

The Russian president’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.

NATO says Putin's 'serious escalation' will not deter it from supporting Ukraine

It comes as Russian forces in one of the four regions being annexed face being encircled by Ukrainian troops after Putin ordered a massive mobilisation drive to get hundreds of thousands of Russian men to the front.

In one of the toughest anti-American speeches he has delivered in more than two decades in power, Putin signalled he was ready to continue a battle for a “greater historical Russia” using whatever tools he had at his disposal and slammed the West as neo-colonial and Satanist.

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