Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law measures that claim to annex four Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation.
The claimed annexations of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are illegal under international law.
Leaders around the world have said they are the result of “sham” referendums held at gunpoint, and will never be recognized.
However, the move is an important step in Russia’s faltering effort to seize control in Ukraine, with Putin claiming that the will of occupied Ukrainians is to belong to Russia — offering a false pretext to his efforts to claim the occupied territories as Moscow’s.
Western officials have previously suggested that Putin will likely seek to reframe Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the four regions and any others as an attack on Russia sovereignty.
Some context: Russia does not fully control the regions it claims to have annexed and Moscow is losing territory to the Ukrainian military in the south and east of the country by the day. In some areas, such as Kherson, those losses are coming at a rapid pace.
The Kremlin does not even appear to be clear on the borders of the territory it is annexing. Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Monday said “we will continue consulting with the population of these regions.”
A regional Ukrainian official in the Zaporizhzhia region said on Tuesday that Russia was trying to establish a “state border” at the Vasylivka checkpoint, which separates Russian-held territory from the rest of Ukraine, including the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia.