How Amendments to Russia's Constitution Create a Time Bomb with the Annexation of Ukrainian Territories

March 3, 2023
Key points – in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis:
Photo credit: Alexander Sherbak/TASS
  • In the fall of 2022, Moscow declared that four Ukrainian regions – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson - were to be incorporated into the Russian Federation. They did this despite not exercising full control over these territories, as they had never controlled places like Zaporizhzhya and soon lost control of places like Kherson.
  • This creates a surrealist legal conundrum, as now, according to the Russian constitution, it is Ukraine which is "occupying" Russian territories. Russia is using its typical "upside down" tactics to present themselves as the victim of aggression which they started. This creates a time bomb, as Russian propaganda begins justifying this war to "deoccupy" ostensibly "Russian" territories.
  • In 2020, Russia adopted an amendment to its Constitution which forbids the ceding of any territory once it has been declared part of Russia. For Putin's political successor, this makes it very difficult to make any steps, involving the status of these four annexed Ukrainian territories, along with Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014, either by military or political means.
  • This creates a Catch 22 situation. The constitutional amendment states that newly-annexed territories are included according to their administrative borders, even though none of the four recently annexed mainland territories of Ukraine are fully occupied by Russian troops.
  • Therefore, it seems that the Kremlin does not know where its established borders are. From a politological point of view, a state is constituted by its people and borders. Does this mean that Russia lack statehood?

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.