The Largest Annexation Since World War II

“If you can’t beat ’em, annex ’em.” 

Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed over 40,000 square miles of eastern and southeastern Ukraine, declaring it part of Russia. The move encompassed four regions, Donestk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, in an action that is seen as an act of desperation and roundly criticized by the west. The total area claimed is approximately 15% of Ukraine’s total land mass.

In a speech Putin gave in the Kremlin, he said, “This is the will of millions of people,” before signing decrees to declare the four Ukrainian regions part of Russia. “This is their right, their inalienable right.” However, Intense fighting continues in the annexed regions. By claiming the territory as theirs, Russians can now say they are defending their soil against Ukrainian aggression…a move that adds insult to injury to the Ukrainian people.

Map showing the annexed Oblasts
Putin and the territory he has taken. Screenshot from YouTube and TLDR News EU

How Did This Happen?

After the Russians were defeated and forced to retreat from Kharkiv in September, they quickly threw together a plan to take additional territories by referendum if they could not do it by force. The move is highly reminiscent of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the legitimacy of which has never been recognized by most of the world. There was a sham vote, the formal signing of papers in the Kremlin, and the obligatory victory speech by the Russian President.

According to The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the borders of the claimed Ukrainian territories have not been clearly defined. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, spoke with several reporters about the annexation last Friday. He stated:

“The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics [DNR and LNR] were recognized by Russia within the borders of 2014. As for the territories of Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts, I need to clarify this. We will clarify everything today.”

Denis Pushilin, current head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (and former Ponzi scheme operator), noted that the Russian federal district where the territories will be added is unknown. But, he told the press, “What will it be called, what are the borders—let’s wait for the final decisions; consultations are now being held on how to do it right.” Because Heaven knows, you would not want to steal part of a country the wrong way.

There is one not-so-small matter the Russians are not mentioning in press conferences regarding their newly taken territories…the original (and rightful) owners, the loyal Ukrainians and their military forces, still control sizable regions of all four oblasts, and they have no intention of leaving or giving up without a fierce fight.

Ukrainians Push Russians out of Lyman

Ukrainian soldiers are raising the colors of Ukraine on a sign announcing the entrance to the town of Lyman. According to The Guardian, it was seized by Russian troops on the 27th of May. Lyman lies within the recently annexed region of Donetsk. Russian officials saw this coming, and the defense ministry formally announced that they were pulling troops out of the area “in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement.”

Reuters informs us that Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office, is said to have first shared the video above with the world. In it, one of the soldiers says, “Dear Ukrainians – today the armed forces of Ukraine … liberated and took control of the settlement of Lyman, Donetsk region.” 

At the end of the video, Ukrainian soldiers remove Russian flags flying over the town council building and raise the Ukrainian colors again. Lyman had been being used as a major transportation and logistics hub for the region. Its capture and take over is part of Ukraine’s master plan of interrupting the Russian troops’ logistics and command and control centers, significantly hampering their fighting ability.

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As you might imagine, Ukrainian President Zenelsky was quite excited about his troops ousting the Russians from the town of Lyman. In the Tweet above, he mentions the town of Yampil, located close to, and was liberated and retaken along with Lyman.

This proud soldier is stating something along the lines of, “Yampil is ours.” 

Zelensky believes his troops are “on a roll” and predicts more successes for his fighting men in Donbas. In a video address, he told his people, “Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in Donbas has increased. There will be even more in a week’s time.” He also noted that his troops had taken the village of Torske, located on the main road out of Lyman to the east.

Russia’s allies in the region have been greatly angered by the recent military successes of the Ukrainians. Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, felt the need to make a statement. He said,

“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.