Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed treaties to annex parts of Ukraine into Russia, defying Western powers. In a ceremony in the Kremlin's opulent white-and-gold St. George's Hall, Putin and the Russian-installed leaders in the four regions of Ukraine put their names on treaties for them to join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the seven-month conflict. The signing ceremony comes three days after the completion of Kremlin-orchestrated "referendums" on joining Russia that were dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a "sham." The separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine have been backed by Moscow since declaring independence in 2014, weeks after the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The southern Kherson region and part of neighboring Zaporizhzhia have been under Russian control since early in in the conflict, which began in February.
Vladimir Putin signed documents to claim nearly a fifth of Ukraine as part of Russia. Ukraine is applying for NATO membership. 1 minute