Russia 'annexes' parts of Ukraine
Vladimir Putin’s sham referenda in four regions of Ukraine have officially moved forward to annexations. But Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson are bang in the center of the war zone, where fighting continues. If Russia manages to retain control of the region, which won’t be simple with Ukrainian soldiers pushing back, then Putin could have a potential land bridge between southeastern Ukraine and Crimea, already annexed by Moscow in 2014. While the annexations are illegal under international law, they come with serious military implications. Russia controls Luhansk and Kherson and about half of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, but the Ukrainians continue to make some gains. The referenda give Putin a cover to claim that any attack on these areas by Ukraine (backed by the West) is in fact an attack on Russia proper. Will Putin use that as cover to try to deploy nuclear weapons? The annexations, formalized with a signing ceremony at the Kremlin on Friday, are the latest push in what Putin is now calling his faltering war: an “anti-colonial movement.” In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested an accelerated accession to NATO.