Putin Signs Laws Annexing 4 Ukrainian Regions

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws formally absorbing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, even as its military struggles to control the territory that was illegally annexed.

The documents finalizing the annexation, carried out in defiance of international laws, were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.

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

On the ground, Moscow’s war in Ukraine has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia faces mounting setbacks, with Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land in the east and in the south — the very regions Moscow has pushed to annex.

The borders of the territories Russia is claiming still remain unclear, but the Kremlin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory — the newly absorbed regions too — with any means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to the annexation by announcing a fast-track application to join NATO and formally ruling out talks with Russia. Zelenskyy’s decree, released Tuesday, declares that holding negotiations with Putin has become impossible after his decision to take over the four regions of Ukraine.