Russian President Vladimir Putin, ignoring international outrage and the struggles of his military, signed laws Wednesday ratifying the annexation of four Ukraine regions, including two that make up the crucial Donbas region he has targeted since the war began.
"I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me, so that everyone remembers this - people living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia become our citizens forever," Putin said.
The paperwork is vague on the boundaries of the land Russia is claiming, but Russian media said Putin annexed about 43,000 square miles. Ukraine, almost the size of Texas, estimates about 15% of its territory was annexed. Some of the land already has been retaken by Ukraine forces in recent weeks, and most of the world does not recognize the annexations.
"The worthless decisions of the terrorist country are not worth the paper they are signed on," Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukraine President's Office, said on Telegram.
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►A former Russian state TV journalist charged with spreading false information after staging an on-air protest against the war said in a Facebook post Wednesday that she has released herself from house arrest. Marina Ovsyannikova's ex-husband says she fled with her young daughter.
►Russian troops used six Iranian drones to strike the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region, leaving one person wounded, Ukraine's presidential office says. The strikes were the first on the town since March when the Russians retreated from the area around the Ukrainian capital.
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In annexed Luhansk, Ukrainian leader says de-occupation has begun
Ukrainian troops have begun driving Russian troops out of the Luhansk region and are "raising the Ukrainian flag" in some settlements, regional governor Serhiy Haidai announced on social media. Russia had taken almost complete control of the crucial region and had seized half of neighboring Donetsk before the Ukrainian counteroffensive began a month ago. About one-third of Luhansk was controlled by Russian-backed militias before the war began. Militia leaders tried to form the Luhansk People's Republic, but only Russia and a few other nations sanctioned the republic.
EU approves 8th round of Russian sanctions
The European Union, citing the annexations, agreed Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Russia, including an expected price cap on Russian oil. Details of the sanctions were expected to be released as soon as Thursday, but curbs on EU exports of aircraft components to the Russia and limits on Russian steel imports are expected to be included in the package.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the eighth round of sanctions, saying Europe is "determined to continue making the Kremlin pay" for invading Ukraine.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war updates: Putin signs papers annexing Ukraine territory