Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation officially admitting four Ukrainian regions to Russia, despite his military fighting for control illegally annexed territory.
The documents completing the annexation, carried out in defiance of international laws, were released on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, both chambers of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions part of Russia. This was followed by Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions, which Ukraine and the West rejected on the sham.
On the ground, Moscow’s War in Ukraine has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia is ahead increasing setbackswith Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land in the east and south — the very regions Moscow has been pushing to annex.
The borders of the territories Russia claims are still unclear, but the Kremlin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory – including the newly acquired regions – with any means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to the annexation by announcing an expedited application for NATO membership and formally excluding talks with Russia. Zelenskyy’s decree, published on Tuesday, says negotiations with Putin have become impossible after his decision to take over Ukraine’s four regions.
The head of Zelenskyy’s office, Andriy Yermak, wrote on his Telegram channel shortly after Putin signed the annexation that “the worthless decisions of the terrorist country (Russia) are not worth the paper they are signed on.
“A collective insane asylum can continue to live in a fictional world,” he added.
Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday gave conflicting assessments of a Ukrainian offensive in the strategic southern Kherson region — one of the four territories Russia is annexing.
A Russian-installed official in the Kherson region insisted that Ukrainian advances in the area have been halted.
Kirill Stremousov, in an op-ed to state news agency RIA Novosti, said that “as of this morning… there have been no movements” by Kiev’s armed forces. He swore that “they will not enter (the city of) Kherson, it is impossible.”
However, Kyiv’s military said on Wednesday that it had recaptured more villages in the Kherson region as part of its massive counter-offensive. Task Force South said the Ukrainian flag was flown over seven villages previously occupied by the Russians.
Military hospitals are full of wounded Russian soldiers and Russian military medics are short of medicines, deputy head of the Kherson regional administration Yuri Sobolevskyi wrote on Telegram. After the condition of the Russian soldiers has stabilized, they are sent to Crimea for further treatment. “Not all arrive,” he wrote.
On the battlefield, multiple explosions rocked Bila Tserkva on Wednesday morning and sparked fires in so-called infrastructure facilities in the city south of the capital Kyiv, regional leader Oleksiy Kuleba told Telegram.
The first indications are that the city was attacked by so-called kamikaze or suicide drones, he said.
Bila Tserkva is about 80 kilometers south of Kyiv.
Russia has increasingly used suicide drones in recent weeks, posing a new challenge to Ukraine’s defenses. The unmanned vehicles can remain airborne for long periods before diving into their targets and detonating their payload at the last moment.
Many of the previous attacks by the Iranian-made drones took place in the south of the country and not near the capital, which has not been attacked in 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 Kyiv itself. One person was injured in the attacks.
Dozens of rescue workers were on the scene and working hours after the attacks were reported to put out the fires, he said.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, at least five civilians have been killed and eight others injured by recent Russian shelling, according to the country’s presidential office.
In the Donetsk region, Russian forces shelled eight towns and villages. A burial ground for civilians was found and the bodies of four civilians discovered in Sviatohirsk, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces, according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)
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