Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws absorbing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, a move that finalises the annexation carried out in defiance of international law. The documents were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, both houses of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. The formalities followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.
The move comes as Moscow’s war in Ukraine has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia faces mounting setbacks on the battlefield, with Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land in the east and in the south – the very regions Moscow has pushed to annex. The borders of the territories Russia is claiming still remain unclear, but the Kremlin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory – the newly absorbed regions, too – with any means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.
Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to the annexation by announcing a fast-track application to join NATO and formally ruling out talks with Russia. Zelenskyy’s decree, released Tuesday, declares that holding negotiations with Putin has become impossible after his decision to take over the four regions of Ukraine.