Accords on the accession of Donbas and other occupied territories to Russia were signed on 30 Sept 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions agreed to merge their territories with Russia. The total areas of these four regions account for about 15% of the territories of Ukraine. The formal ceremony was held on Friday in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall. Prior to the signing of the momentous documents, Putin delivered a historic and welcomed these territories to the fold of the Russian Federation. This ceremony was witnessed and applauded by the people who had gathered to be part of this unique ceremony. Putin further added that it did not allow the West to rob and ruin Russia in the 1990s. Russia accused the US of virtually controlling Germany, Japan, South Korea and many countries worldwide.
Putin urged Ukraine to stop conflict and return to negotiating table at the earliest, and the Russian President expressed this appeal many times while addressing the gathering. He emphasised that talks should not be delayed further. Otherwise, it could jeopardise the safety and security of the region. The Kremlin cautioned that Ukrainian attacks against any of the annexed regions would be considered an act of aggression against Russia itself.
Ukraine, Western countries, and the United Nations secretary-general have denounced the move. It would further escalate the war that began with Russia’s launch of the so-called ‘Special Military Operation’ on 24 Feb 2022. On Thursday, UN chief Antonio Guterres told the media that any plan to go ahead with the take-over of the areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned. The US, its European allies, and many other countries criticised Russia for its nuclear threat and said permitting a country to seize new territory militarily would set a wrong precedent and undoubtedly lead to destabilisation of world peace and tranquillity. They observed with concern that the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state goes against the mandate of the UN.
Western associates of Ukraine say the so-called referendums displaying a willingness to unite with Russia were a mock, as some residents of occupied areas were forced to vote at gunpoint, and a large section of the population had escaped and been rendered internally displaced or refugees, stating that the outcome was also manipulated.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and his ministers and commanders say they will endure in their fight to oust the Russian Army troops from Ukraine, notwithstanding the claim of Moscow, who call these parts Russian territories.
In its next move, Russia will concentrate on the legal procedures to give the take-over legality. Thus, a rally was planned and conducted on Red Square on Friday to rejoice the annexation publicly. The leaders of the four provinces moved to Moscow and requested the Russian President to take over their regions and include them in the territory of Russia.
Supposing the course follows the pattern laid down in 2014 when Russia incorporated Crimea, in that case, the Russian President will submit a draft law to Russia’s Parliament recommending the expansion of the country’s borders. Then, the constitutional court will assess the suggestion, and both house chambers will vote. There should be no surprise that all members of Parliament would then sign the law on accession and claim the new territory.
This action of Russia could set the stage for the Kremlin to declare that it is safeguarding, not being offensive, in the ongoing war with Ukraine. Therefore, stating that it is right to use any military means, including a finely obscured nuclear threat. Moreover, annexing the provinces could be used to justify conscripting Ukrainian persons living in these areas to fight other Ukrainians in the war, solving the problem of shortage of troops in the Russian Army.
Nobody knows what is now on the Russian President’s mind, but his anti-Western grandiloquence has reached a new high, and partially the West is also responsible for this. He wants the West to understand that Moscow views attacks on occupied regions of Ukraine as attacks on Russia itself. Ukraine’s application for memberships of the EU and NATO will fast-track; thus, this would further escalate the war. Now Russia can threaten the West and NATO if these annexed territories are attacked. Russia would try hard to liberate the pockets in these still held by the Ukrainian forces.