RUSSIA PAVES THE WAY TO FORMALLY ANNEX LARGE SWATHES OF UKRAINE IN DIRECT CHALLENGE TO THE WEST THAT COULD SHARPLY ESCALATE THE WAR
Russia on Tuesday paved the way for the formal annexation of swathes of Ukrainian territory, backing referendum plans in areas of Ukraine its soldiers control in a direct challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the war.
After nearly seven months of war, including a critical battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is pondering his next steps. Annexation could be his answer.
In what appeared to be choreographed requests, Russian-backed officials across 15% of Ukrainian territory – an area about the size of Hungary or Portugal – lined up to request referendums on joining Russia.
The self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Putin recognised as independent just before the invasion, and Russian-installed officials in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have asked for votes over less than 24 hours.
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