Despite massive battlefield reversals in recent days that have reduced the amount of captured land Moscow controls, Russian President Vladimir Putin formalised the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Wednesday.
Russia has intensified its seven-month conflict by annexing territory, mobilising troops, and threatening to use nuclear weapons to safeguard all of its territory.
Putin has now approved legislation formally merging the four areas, which account for around 18% of Ukraine’s land, into Russia, according to the state-owned TASS news agency on Wednesday morning.
The Russian president’s signature was the final step in the legislative process; the plan had already been approved by Russia’s two chambers of parliament.
Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia’s attempted annexation is an illegitimate land grab that will never be recognised, with Ukraine vowing to retake any territory captured by Russian military.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed Tuesday night that his military had achieved large, rapid advances against Russian soldiers in the previous week, reclaiming dozens of towns in regions of the south and east that Russia has declared annexed.