Voters in four Russian-occupied provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine overwhelmingly agreed with their regions to join Russia in a referendum that Kyiv and its Western partners see as a sham.
According to Russian state news agency Ria Novosti, after a comprehensive vote count, Luhansk has 98 percent, Zaporozhye 93 percent and Kherson 87 percent. In Donetsk, 95 percent supported it, with just over half of the votes counted.
hastily arranged vote For five days, election officials, security forces and Russian soldiers went door-to-door to ensure residents’ participation. Ukrainian officials denounced the exercise as voting under the barrel of a gun and reported incidents in which men were threatened with detention if they did not participate.
Given the Kremlin’s arrangements for early voting last week, the result was never in question, paving the way for Moscow to formally annex the four provinces as early as this week.
None of the four territories are fully under Russian control, and Kyiv has vowed to continue a counteroffensive to retake them.President Vladimir Putin said last week Russia will use “all available means” to defend territories incorporated into Russia, hinting at the possible use of nuclear weapons to preserve what he considers the country’s territorial integrity.
He also used the moment to announce a “partial” mobilization of Russian men, the first conscription since World War II. The order sparked protests and prompted tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to flee the country, Many of them went to Georgia and Kazakhstan.
After the results of the referendum, the lower house of Russia’s parliament will meet to vote on whether the region should be included in the federation. Analysts expect approval to be quick.
Putin’s final signature will then be required. The Kremlin said he could address the nation on Friday, but has not confirmed the incident.
The Russian-appointed head of the occupied Zaporozhye region said late on Tuesday that his region was effectively separated from Ukraine and was applying to join Russia. He is expected to visit Moscow this week to call on Putin to annex the province to Russia.
However, Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, who also needs to consider any bills to annex Ukraine, appears to have proposed a longer timetable. She said a meeting related to the referendum result could take place on October 4, Ria reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, Western allies in Kyiv reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and said they would never recognize the outcome of the referendum or Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the U.S. would move quickly to sanction Russia if it continued to annex occupied territories.
“We are ready that we will impose an additional severe and swift price on Russia’s annexation,” Blinken said. “We will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.”
Ukrainian officials have warned that the annexation could be a precursor to wider recruitment of local men to fight alongside Russian forces.Some residents of the occupied territories are also concerned that this could lead to a ban on the use of the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia
Putin will seek to “copy the Crimea model,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of R. Politik consulting firm, referring to Russia’s annexation of the country following a similar quick vote in 2014. peninsula.
“The Army Recruitment Office . . . will then redouble its efforts to capture defenders of the enlarged homeland,” Stanova said. Since Putin launched his mobilization last week, a wave of dissatisfaction Riding across Russia, thousands have fled the country, many trying to avoid conscription.