In violation of international law, Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions

Kyiv: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws incorporating four Ukrainian regions into Russia, a move completing the annexation that violates international law. The documents were published on a website of the Russian government on Wednesday morning.

Earlier this week, both houses of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya part of Russia. The formalities followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.

The move comes as Moscow’s war in Ukraine has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia faces mounting setbacks on the battlefield, with Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land to the east and south — the regions Moscow has forced to annex.

The boundaries of the territories claimed by Russia are still unclear, but the Kremlin has vowed to defend Russian territory – including the newly absorbed regions – by all means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to the annexation by announcing an accelerated application to join NATO and formally excluding talks with Russia. Zelenskyy’s decree, released Tuesday, states that negotiations with Putin have become impossible after his decision to take over Ukraine’s four regions.

On the battlefield on Wednesday morning, multiple explosions shook Bila Tserkva, sparking fires in what were described as infrastructure facilities in the city south of the capital Kiev, regional leader Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.

Early indications are that the city was attacked by so-called “kamikaze” or suicide drones, he said.

Bila Tserkva is located about 80 kilometers south of Kiev.

Russia has increasingly used suicide drones in recent weeks, posing a new challenge to Ukraine’s defenses. The unmanned vehicles can stay in the air for a long time before diving into their targets and detonating their payload at the last minute.

Many of the previous attacks by the Iranian-made drones have taken place in the south of the country and away from the capital, which has not been targeted for weeks.

In a later post, Kuleba said a total of six Shahed-136 drones hit the city, one of the largest in the region after Kiev itself. One person was injured in the attacks.

Dozens of rescue workers were on the scene and were still working to put out the fires hours after the attacks were reported, he said.

Ukrainian forces continued to make gains in the south in the meantime. Kiev’s military said on Wednesday they had recaptured more villages in the Kherson region as part of their massive counter-offensive.

Operational Command South said the Ukrainian flag has been hoisted over the villages of Liubymivka, Khreschenivka, Zolota Balka, Biliaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka and Mala Oleksandrivka.

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