Russia’s legislature on Monday began the process of approving President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four parts of Ukraine in violation of international law, a move that comes as the Ukrainian military continues to liberate towns previously occupied by Russian forces.
The procedure is expected to be a formality, although it will take a couple of days. Putin and his allies effectively control both branches of the Russian legislature, and the space for political dissent in Russia has shrunk in recent years.
The lower house, the State Duma, voted unanimously Monday to approve the annexation, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency. The upper house, the Federation Council, is scheduled to hold meetings on the topic on Tuesday, TASS reported.
But the maneuverings inside the ornate halls of the Kremlin stand in stark contrast to the facts on the ground in the detritus-strewn battlefields of eastern Ukraine.
Where things stand on the ground: Russian forces have suffered a series of surprising defeats in eastern Ukraine, forcing them to retreat and abandon several positions in areas the Kremlin is annexing. Pro-Russian propagandists and bloggers have been unusually critical of the war effort in recent days, as town after town falls to Ukrainian forces.
One prominent Russian pro-government tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda, said Russian forces had to retreat in the strategically important city of Lyman because they lacked manpower and communicated poorly, and commanding officers there made “mistakes.”
Now, much of the territory Moscow claims as its own in Donetsk region is under the control of Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that the country had taken back Lyman, while the Ukrainian military said it had recaptured the nearby villages of Drobysheve and Torske, putting Kyiv in a better position as it seeks to take back the Luhansk region.