Russian President Vladimir Putin formalised the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Wednesday amid major battlefield reversals in recent days.
The reversal led to shrinking the amount of seized territory Moscow controls.
Russia has escalated its seven-month war with the annexation drive, a military mobilisation and warnings of a possible recourse to nuclear weapons to protect all of its territories.
Putin now signed off on a law formally incorporating the four regions, representing about 18 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, into Russia.
The state-owned TASS news agency reported on Wednesday morning.
The Russian leader’s signature was the final stage in the legislative process; the two chambers of Russia’s parliament had already ratified the plan.
Kyiv and its Western allies said Russia’s attempted annexation was an illegal land grab and would never be recognised with Ukraine saying its army would recapture any territory occupied by Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday night that his military had made major, rapid advances against Russian forces in the past week.
This is taking back dozens of towns in regions in the south and east that Russia has declared annexed.
“This week alone, since the Russian pseudo-referendum, dozens of population centres have been liberated.
“These are in Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions altogether,’’ Zelensky said.
Zelensky named eight small towns in Kherson in the south as recently having been recaptured. Reuters could not independently verify his statements.
Russia did not fully control any of the four regions it claimed Donetsk, Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson in the south.
The Kremlin has said it has yet to determine the final borders of the annexed territory.
Andriy Yermak, head of Zelenskiy’s office, reiterated the Ukrainian position on annexation.
Referring on Telegram to what he called a collective madhouse, he said, worthless decisions by a terrorist country were not worth the paper they were signed on.
Russian forces in the Donetsk and Kherson regions were forced to retreat in recent days, they dug in at new positions where they hoped to halt the Ukrainian advance.
Zelensky said Ukraine had retaken territory in the rapid advance
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This week alone, since the Russian pseudo-referendum, dozens of population centres have been liberated.
These were in Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk regions altogether, Zelensky said.
Zelensky named eight small towns in Kherson in the south as recently having been recaptured.
Reuters could not independently verify his statements.
Lyudmila, 64, who sheltered for weeks in the basement of the Lavra monastery complex with other Ukrainians, speaks to journalists outside the church in Svyatohirsk. (Reuters/NAN)