Moscow, Oct 2 (EFE).- Russia’s constitutional court on Sunday officially approved the annexation treaties for four Ukrainian regions, a day after Moscow lost a key eastern city in the freshly absorbed region of Donetsk.
On Friday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed decrees paving the way for the annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk — swathes of which have been under de facto separatist rule since 2014 — as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia after Moscow held sham referendums in the occupied territories.
A day later, the Kremlin lost the key eastern city of Lyman after some 5,000 Russian troops were encircled by Ukrainian forces pushing them out of the town in Donetsk province.
“Due to the risk of being surrounded, allied forces have withdrawn from the town of Lyman to more advantageous positions,” a Russian defense ministry statement read.
This is the second largest defeat for Russia in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks after Kremlin troops retreated from the Kharkiv region on September 8.
The new annexation treaties specify that the regions in eastern and southern Ukraine have been absorbed by the Russian Federation and will become four new federal entities.
This is the second time Russia has annexed Ukrainian territory in the last eight years after its takeover of Crimea in 2014, which followed the same blueprint involving a referendum shunned by the international community.
None of the four regions absorbed by Russia on Friday are fully under Moscow’s control and fighting with Ukrainian forces is ongoing.
Combined, the territories make up around 15% of Ukrainian land — an area comparable to Portugal or Hungary.
During Friday’s annexation ceremony Putin gave a nationalist speech in which he defended the annexation of the pro-Russian territories that he claimed had been separated from the “motherland” during the disintegration of the Soviet Union,
“The USSR no longer exists, and the past will not return,” Putin said in his speech leading up to the treaty-signing ceremony. “And Russia doesn’t need it, but there is nothing stronger than the determination of these people to return to their true historical homeland.”
The decision to annex land, which is due to be ratified by lawmakers next week, is a fresh escalation of the war in Ukraine.
Western nations have outright condemned the annexation while even friendly nations, such as China, India, Serbia and Turkey, are unlikely to recognize the Russian expansion.
It also marks a pitch change in the dynamics of the war, with Putin now able to claim that an attack in the region of the southeast and east Ukraine is an attack on Russia itself. EFE