Russia has formally completed the illegal annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. Russian President Vladimir Putin has finalized a law formally annexing the four partly Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported.
The signing was the last step in the process.
On Tuesday, Russia’s upper house unanimously approved laws to annex the areas. The lower house, the Duma, unanimously agreed to this on Monday. Both votes were formalities after Friday’s annexation ceremony. Putin and the four Russian-installed leaders of the occupied territories then signed the documents ratifying annexation.
According to TASS, there is now an integration process that should be completed in 2026. Elections for regional parliaments will be held next year. Until then, the leaders installed by Russia will remain in power. It is also only this year that it is still possible to pay with the Ukrainian hryvnia. By next year, the Russian ruble should be introduced in all annexed territories.
Russia annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia after holding unrecognized referendums there. An overwhelming majority would have voted to join the Russian Federation.
However, the Russian army has not fully occupied all areas. For example, the borders of Kherson and Zaporizhia are yet to be determined. Still, the documents state that they are areas that “existed on the day of accession to Russia”.
The Kremlin said it would enter into talks with residents across the borders. Russia uses the borders of the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk for the other two regions. The pro-Russian separatist leaders said in 2014 they ruled the entire region, although they did not control it.
Ukrainian troops, meanwhile, continue to advance towards Luhansk. Russian leaders are likely to be alarmed that Ukrainians are approaching Luhansk’s borders, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. According to the British, Ukraine also continues to progress on the southern front. In recent days, the Ukrainian army has taken several more places along the Dnieper River in the south of the Kherson region, both Ukrainian officials and a local Russian leader confirmed. However, a Russian official said the offensive was halted on Wednesday.
The advance is seen as the most significant breakthrough in the south since the start of the war. Last weekend, the Russian army also withdrew from the strategic Lyman site in Donetsk.