Putin signs laws to annex 4 Ukrainian regions into Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws Wednesday claiming the annexation of Ukraine's Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions into Russia.
Why it matters: Russian officials have said the four annexed regions would have Moscow's "full protection," hinting that nuclear weapons may be an option.
- U.S. officials have warned their Kremlin counterparts about the "catastrophic consequences" of such action.
The big picture: The four regions Putin claims to have annexed make up 15% of Ukraine. However, his forces don't fully control any of those regions and they've continued to lose territory there to Ukraine's military, according to multiple reports.
Driving the news: Russia's lower house of Parliament announced in a statement that Putin had signed the laws, a day after both Russian houses voted to ratify the annexations following referendums in the Russian-occupied areas — which Ukrainian and Western officials denounced as a "sham."
State of play: The British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update on Wednesday, the 224th day of war, that Ukrainian forces were continuing to advance along both the northeastern and southern fronts — making key gains in the Kharkiv region in particular.
- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address Tuesday night the Ukrainian Army had carried out a "fast and powerful advance" in the south.
- "Dozens of settlements have already been liberated from the Russian sham referendum this week alone," Zelensky said. "In Kherson region, Kharkiv region, Luhansk region and Donetsk region altogether."
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry made no mention of territorial losses in a Tuesday video briefing, but it featured maps showing Putin's forces no longer controlled several areas they previously held in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, Al Jazeera notes.
What we're watching: While it was not immediately clear where the Kremlin regards the borders of the newly claimed territories to be, Axios' Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath notes it will now deem the battles in the four regions to be taking place on Russian soil.
Go deeper: A reality check on Putin’s nuclear threat
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.