Updated 10:30am (EDT) Friday, September 30
Russian President Vladimir Putin took the first step to annex four Ukrainian territories by signing documents at a ceremony this morning.
After the signing, the European Union immediately released a statement claiming the annexation was illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv would “accelerate” its application to become a member of NATO.
Russia is moving quickly to absorb the territory it controls in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the breakaway Donbas republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) after referendums on joining Russia were held in the regions.
Putin’s signing off on absorbing the territories will be the first step toward formal annexation. Russia’s Constitutional Court will need to verify the decree complies with the law, and it needs to be ratified by Russia’s houses of parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.
The Federation Council is expected to discuss the issue on October 4. While there are still more steps that need to be taken, Russia absorbing the territories is almost certain.
The US and its allies have condemned the referendums as shams and said they will not recognize the territories as Russia. But Moscow has made clear that after the annexation, it will consider attacks on the areas as attacks on Russian territory, which could potentially be defended with nuclear weapons if Russia feels that its existence is threatened.