Home / News / World /  Explained: What Russia’s annexation of Ukraine territory means for India and the world

NEW DELHI: Russia has just stepped up the war in Ukraine. Just a week after declaring a partial mobilisation of its troops, Moscow has announced that it will annex four provinces in Ukraine. These moves indicate that the war in Ukraine is likely to drag on.

Mint breaks down what the development could mean for India and the world.

What has Moscow done?

Russia has declared that it will annex four Ukrainian provinces: Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. This has occurred after Moscow held deeply controversial referendums in these regions. Reports indicate that Ukrainian citizens were likely coerced into voting by Russian troops. In total, Russia is claiming an estimated 109,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory which amounts to about 15%-20% of the country.

However, Russian forces do not yet have full control over these provinces. It controls most of Luhansk provinces and a large chunk of the Donetsk region. It also holds around 70% of Zaporizhzhia and the vital city of Kherson. Fighting continues to rage on in the Northeast and Southern regions of the country.

Why has Russia done this?

Analysts speculate that Russia’s recent military setbacks have pushed Putin into a corner. He can either accept the losses or increase the stakes. By claiming territory as Russian land, he can justify an escalation in fighting as an attack on Russian soil. This may pause Ukraine and its Western backers. Fighting a war on what Moscow considers its territory may lead to a full scale conflict that may, according to some experts, lead to limited use of nuclear weapons.

Statements from top Russian officials seem to confirm this line of thinking. When asked if a Ukranian attack on the annexed territories would be an attack on Russia, a Kremlin spokesperson remarked that “it would not be anything else".

How has the world reacted?

The condemnations have flown thick and fast. The G7 foreign ministers released a strong statement saying that Putin’s actions “constitute a new low point in Russia’s blatant flouting of international law." It went on to add that the countries “will never recognize these purported annexations, nor the sham “referenda" conducted at gunpoint." The European Union has also condemned the annexation while the UK and the US released a fresh batch of sanctions on Russia.

US President Joe Biden struck a stronger note. “Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy," he said.

What does this mean?

Taken together with Putin’s decision to call for a partial mobilisation of Russian reserve troops, it means that the war is far from over. Ukraine’s victories in recent weeks had sparked hopes that Russia’s precarious military position could force the Kremlin to come to the negotiating table. If Putin pushes through the annexation of Ukrainian territory, analysts fear that there will be no way out for Russia or Ukraine. Moscow will be forced to fight for what it claims as its territory while Ukraine will refuse to negotiate so long as Russia claims its land.

Uncertainty in global markets and among energy suppliers will likely continue. The possibility of a large-scale conflict which involves major European powers and the recession in America will likely heighten that uncertainty.

What does it mean for India?

At the diplomatic level, it means that New Delhi is placed in a difficult spot on the global stage once again. India abstained on a vote for a draft resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Russia’s actions. While India continues to call for dialogue and for respecting territorial integrity, Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian land stands in direct contrast to India’s stated stance on war.

Meanwhile, an increase in hostilities will dampen global growth prospects and spook the already troubled energy markets. This will hurt India’s economic growth ambitions coming out of the pandemic.

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