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At the end of September 2022 Russian-backed authorities in four occupied regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, held referendums on joining the Russian Federation, even though the regions are not totally under Russian control and Ukraine continues to conduct a military counteroffensive.

According to the Kremlin those regions voted overwhelmingly in support of such a move.

Russian annexation

In a speech on 30 September President Putin announced Russia’s intention to annex those regions and recognise, and defend, them as part of the Russian Federation. Treaties of accession were passed into law in early October 2022.

The move is reminiscent of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has been widely condemned by many in the international community, who have called the referendums, and subsequent annexation, illegitimate and a violation of international law. At a vote of the UN General Assembly on 12 October, 143 countries supported a resolution condemning the referendums and demanding Russia reverse its annexation declaration.

Additional Western-led sanctions have been imposed on Russia and Ukraine’s allies have vowed to continue supporting the government in Kyiv. 

Ukraine’s commitment to reclaim its sovereign territory

Ukraine has vowed to continue its counteroffensive and reclaim its sovereign territory. 

Russia has said the annexed regions will be with Russia forever. Protracted conflict therefore appears the most likely outcome. Many fear that President Putin, on the military back foot and faced with limited options, could seek to escalate the conflict, potentially resorting to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

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