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As Moscow struggles to define borders, the Russian parliament begins the process of rubber-stamping annexation

 


Kiev, Ukraine
CNN

Russia’s legislature on Monday began the process of approving President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four regions of Ukraine, even though the Kremlin is not in full control of those regions and has not settled on the exact boundaries of the territories it is trying to absorb. .

Legal approval of the annexation, illegal under international law, is expected to be a formality, though it will take two days. Putin and his allies effectively control both branches of the Russian legislature, and the space for political dissent in Russia has shrunk in recent years.

But the machinations within the Kremlin’s ornate halls stand in stark contrast to the realities on the ground in eastern Ukraine’s battlefields.

Russian forces have suffered a series of surprise defeats in eastern Ukraine, forcing them to retreat and abandon several positions in areas the Kremlin claims it is annexing. Much of the territory Moscow claims as its own in the Donetsk region is controlled by Ukrainian forces, and the Kremlin is uncertain about the exact boundaries of the areas it plans to annex. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed “constant consultation” with local populations before establishing its borders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that the country had retaken Lyman, while the Ukrainian military said it had retaken the nearby villages of Trobyshev and Torske, putting Kiev in a better position to try to retake the Luhansk region.

Pro-Russian officials said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had entered the Luhansk region, almost all of which is under the control of Russia or Russian-allied forces. Ukrainian forces liberated the Luhansk village of Philohorivka at the end of September and are now advancing in the direction of Lisysansk. Luhansk was Ukraine’s last enclave before Kyiv withdrew its forces in July, Lysizansk.

In a third region, Kherson, Ukrainian forces are advancing and have captured several villages and settlements, including Zolota Balka on the west bank of the Dnipro River, according to a Ukrainian regional official and a pro-Russian military blogger. On Sunday, Zelensky said, Ukraine’s military captured Arkhangelsk and Myrolyubyvka.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CNN on Sunday that he believes Ukraine is “making progress” in Kherson.

“What we’re seeing now is kind of a shift in battlefield dynamics,” Austin said. “They did very well in the Kharkiv area and moved to take advantage of opportunities. The fighting in the Kherson region is going a bit slower, but they are making progress.

The losses have prompted unusual criticism in recent days from critical pro-Russian campaigners. A major Russian pro-government newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, said Russian forces had to retreat to the strategically important city of Lyman because they were undermanned, had poor communications, and that commanders there had made “mistakes”.

Russia has said it will annex four regions: Donetsk and Luhansk. They are both home to Russian-backed breakaway republics and have been in conflict since 2014.

The other regions, Kherson and Zaporizhzia, are both in southern Ukraine and have been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began in late February.

In a formal speech at the Kremlin’s St. George Hall on Friday, Putin announced that Russia would move forward with annexing the four regions. In favor of accepting Russian sovereignty.

The contests have been widely described as a travesty that fails to meet internationally recognized standards of free and fair elections. Reports from the ground suggest that voting was essentially and literally at gunpoint.

Countries around the world were quick to condemn Putin’s announcement that the regions would be annexed. The members of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – and the European Union said they would never recognize the Kremlin’s sovereignty over territories and vowed to “impose further economic costs on Russia”.

EU member states on Friday jointly summoned Russian ambassadors to “strongly condemn these actions” and demand an “immediate halt to actions that undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity and violate the UN Charter and international law.”

As Moscow struggles to define borders, the Russian parliament begins the process of rubber-stamping annexation

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