Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed two decrees recognizing the former Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye as independent sovereign states. The decrees come into force immediately.
“Recognize the state sovereignty and independence” of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions “effective from the day of signing,” the two decrees dated and signed September 29 say. In the documents, Putin refers to the universally recognized principles and norms of international law, and the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, enshrined in the UN Charter.
The move comes on the eve of the official ceremony in which the Russian president is expected to sign treaties on incorporating the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, as well as the two Donbass republics, into Russia.
Referendums on joining Russia were held in Zaporozhye and Kherson, as well as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), between September 23 and 27.
In Kherson Region, 87.05% voted in favor of declaring independence and joining the Russian Federation. Zaporozhye Region also supported the idea of splitting from Ukraine and joining Russia (93.23%). In the DPR, 99.23% voted in favor, while the results in the LPR were slightly lower (98.42%).
After Putin signs the treaties on the accession of the new regions into Russia, the documents will be submitted to Russia’s Constitutional Court. After this, the State Duma – the lower house of the Russian parliament – will have to ratify the agreements, which will then be sent to the Federal Council, its upper house, for the same procedure.
The Donbass republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye, cannot become parts of Russia until lawmakers pass legislation on their incorporation, which would then need to be signed by Putin.
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states, accusing Kiev of failing to implement the Minsk agreements, which were supposed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within Ukraine. Brokered by Germany and France, the protocols were first signed in 2014.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing the need to protect Donbass. It also demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.
During the conflict, Russian forces seized the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. Since that time, the local authorities repeatedly mulled the idea of joining Russia, before eventually holding referendums in September.