Home / Opinion / Views /  Mint Explainer: Why Russia has claimed parts of Ukraine

Russia has just stepped up the war in Ukraine. Just a week after declaring a partial mobilization 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 this dramatic development in Moscow’s game plan for Ukraine.

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 the 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 15%-20% of the country.

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However, Russian forces do not yet have full control over these provinces. It controls most of Luhansk province 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 give Ukraine and its Western backers pause. Fighting a war on what Moscow considers its territory may lead to a full-scale conflict that may, according to some experts, lead to the 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, the Kremlin’s 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 also condemned the annexation while the United Kingdom and the United States released a fresh batch of sanctions on Russia.

President Biden also 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 US 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 the Ukrainian position.

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

Elsewhere in Mint

In Opinion, Manu Joseph tells why intellectuals are wrong about the rise of the right in Europe. Ankita Thakur says location data can boost enterprise in tier II and III cities. Andy Mukherjee says India’s internet policy mustn’t develop a Chinese character. Long Story explores the possibility of a smogless November this year.

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