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.