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.