Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday the annexation of four occupied territories in southeastern Ukraine despite international condemnation. The United Nations defined this as violating the United Nations Charter and international laws. Ukraine's territory is ill-fated to be divided between "East and West” as an area the size of Portugal, which is 15 percent (90,000 km²) of Ukraine's territory, has been illegally annexed by Russia. The Guardian reported that this has led to annexing the largest territory since World War II.
The Russian president signed an annexation treaty with the heads of pro-Russian administrations from Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, the occupied territories in southeastern Ukraine, to the Kremlin in Moscow on the same day. Putin then gave a speech announcing the annexation. A referendum for annexation was held in these regions from Friday to Tuesday, and the annexation was formalized swiftly in just three days.
In particular, Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that Russian government officials said, "The four regions will come under Russia's nuclear umbrella following the annexation effectively." This move may indicate that if Ukrainian forces attack these areas, they can be retaliated with nuclear weapons. In 2020, President Putin issued a Nuclear Doctrine, which outlines the principle of resorting to nuclear weapons, allowing nuclear weapons to be used in conventional attacks on Russian territory. Seven months after the invasion, Putin, who had been put on the defensive after the Ukrainian army launched counterattacks on the southeastern region, pulled out his nuclear card, potentially rendering the Ukrainian conflict into a nuclear war.
At a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly criticized Russia's actions as "unacceptable in the modern international community."
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