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When Ukrainian forces recently retook the city of Lyman from Russian occupiers, resident Elena Kharkovska was surprised to learn that Russian President Vladimir Putin had considered her to be one of his constituents for one day. Lacking electricity or communications while the bullets and bombs were falling around her head, she didn’t know that Putin had unilaterally annexed her region of Donetsk on the day before Russian troops withdrew.
“I didn’t hear anything about it. I’m in shock,” Kharkovska told the New York Times. “Nobody told us anything. It’s funny to me because it recalls a saying, ‘Without me, they married me.’”
Lyman is a logistics hub on the northern edge of Donetsk, one of the regions that Russian forces had occupied since the spring, a few months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Washington Post wrote. It had been key to supplying Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.
After the Ukrainian army drove the Russians out, the locals helped themselves to their weapons and other goods, “rejoicing” that they were gone, the Wall Street Journal noted.
As CNBC explained, in addition to Donetsk, Putin annexed three other Ukrainian regions where Russians had held sway prior to the recent successful Ukrainian counteroffensive. Donetsk and Luhansk were “self-declared republics” that Russia had informally occupied since 2014. The two other regions were in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine.
At a ceremony announcing the annexation, Putin took a dig at the US and Europe that have supplied sophisticated weapons to Ukraine, frustrating the Russian leader’s grandiose visions of a Great Russia. “The West is looking for new opportunities to hit us and they always dreamt about breaking our state into smaller states who (would) be fighting against each other,” he said. “They cannot be happy with this idea that there is this large country with all (these) natural riches and people who will never live under a foreign oppression.”
Russia’s parliament rubber-stamped Putin’s plans a few days after the referendums even though Russia didn’t continue to control much of the territories anymore, CNN wrote. In fact, it’s not even clear which sections of Ukraine actually come under Putin’s proclamation, the Guardian added, citing Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s recent “surprising admission” that Russian officials were still determining those boundaries.
In those Ukrainian regions that remain under Russian control, a complicated situation is emerging. An unknown number of people there would prefer their land to become part of Russia, noted Deutsche Welle. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled west, however, to avoid Russian rule. Pro-Ukraine rallies in the occupied regions are commonplace. Anti-war protests are also becoming more pronounced in Russia, too, coincidentally, as Yahoo! News reported. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of young men have fled the country, afraid of being drafted.
Doesn’t sound so great.