What is annexation? | The Economist

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ohN 30 September Vladimir Putin signed documents to annex four partially occupied Ukrainian regions – Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk. Sham referendums were held at gunpoint there, with little legitimacy. According to the Kremlin, in each province at least 87% of the voters (and a stupid 99% in Donetsk) voted for the land ​​where they lived to become part of Russia . In his speech Mr Putin did not use the word “annex”, but said that the region (about 17% of Ukraine) would be “our citizens forever”. Actually Russia has no right to this area. His claim to Crimea, a strategic peninsula he occupied in 2014, is equally false. But in each case Mr Putin has presented the illegal act as a reunification, not an annexation. What is annexation, and why is it important to use the word?

Under international law, annexation is when one country forcefully asserts control and sovereignty over another country’s territory. This usually follows a military career. The extension is one-sided. Territorial control is expressed by the occupying power; the other party does not get a say. (If a territory cedes control to another, that is called cession.) Russia claims that the four Ukrainian territories it annexes have accepted Russian control, as evidenced by the results of referendums sham. In Russia this is presented as the correction of a historical wrong. Mr Putin has repeatedly said that Russians and Ukrainians are one people with a common heritage dating back to Kyivan Rus, a medieval political confederation covering Belarus, Ukraine and part of the Russia today. It is an empty justification for a war of imperial conquest.

Since 1945 very few leaders have conquered and annexed entire countries. (Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was a rare exception, and it was quickly turned back.) However, a larger number have expanded their borders by adding small pieces of land belonging to other people involved. An annex is valid when it is recognized by other countries and by international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. India justified the annexation of Goa in 1961 as the return of historically Indian territory from Portuguese colonial rule, and the UN recognized India’s claims almost exclusively. immediately.

On the other hand, the connections of the Syrian Golan Heights with Israel in 1981 and the Western Sahara with Morocco in 1976 and 1979 are still unknown and are considered illegal occupations. Likewise, the United Nations General Assembly does not recognize Russia’s claim to Crimea. The American president, Joe Biden, has already said that his country will “never, never, never” recognize this latest connection.

That will not deter Mr Putin. He has said that Russia refuses to live under the “false rules” of the West. Instead, he makes up his own. Having annexed parts of Ukraine, he can mockingly claim that when Russian forces fight Ukrainians on Ukrainian soil, they are actually defending territory​​​​ of Russia. That same tactic could be used elsewhere in the future: Russian troops are already in parts of Georgia and Moldova.

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