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Russia claims victory in Ukraine’s ‘fake referendums’

Pro-Kremlin officials said three parts of occupied Ukrainian territory opted to join Russia, following votes that Kyiv and the West called “fake referendums”.

Voting began last Thursday in the provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, shortly after a series of humiliating military setbacks for Moscow. In recent weeks, Ukraine has taken back thousands of square kilometers of land, especially in the areas northeast of Kharkiv.

On Tuesday, Moscow-backed separatists said 93% of votes in Zaporizhzhia were in favor of Russian annexation. The counts in the southern region of Kherson and in the eastern region of Luhansk were also one-sided, they added.

The Donetsk results are expected to be announced later.

Addressing the UN on Tuesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on world leaders to further isolate Russia by introducing new sanctions.

“Any annexation in the modern world is a crime, a crime against all states which regard the inviolability of borders as vital to themselves,” he said.

The wartime leader accused Moscow of destroying “the essence of international law”, saying peace talks were now out of the question.

“Russia’s recognition of these mock referendums as normal, the implementation of the so-called Crimea scenario and another attempt to annex Ukrainian territory will mean that there is nothing to discuss with this President of the Russia,” he said. “Annexation is the kind of move that puts him alone against all of humanity.”

Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula was annexed by Russia in a similar referendum in 2014.

Before the last referendums, the West warned that the results would be rigged.

“The mock referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognize their results. They follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture and forced evictions in regions of Ukraine seized by Russia,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, while announcing new Russian sanctions.

The UK has taken a series of actions against more than 90 people linked to the referendums or accused of funding the Russian war machine.

Vladimir Putin is expected to speak about annexation on Friday.

(APE)

The United States is currently drafting a resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning the referendums.

“The Russian sham referendum, if accepted, will open a Pandora’s box that we cannot close,” said US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

If Moscow vetoes the resolution, then a vote could take place in the UN General Assembly, Thomas-Greenfield said.

“If Russia chooses to shield itself from liability here in the Council, then we will look to the UN General Assembly to send an unequivocal message to Moscow.”

Moscow is expected to officially announce the results of the referendum later this week, before declaring the annexations of the four areas. Analysts believe the seven-month war will then enter a dangerous new phase, as Russia will likely claim it is defending its “sovereignty” in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.

Looking ahead to the official outcome, Putin’s regime has said its threats to use nuclear weapons must be taken seriously.

Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of Putin who is deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said this week that Moscow could use its strongest weapons against Ukraine if Russia’s “very existence” was threatened.

“I believe that NATO will avoid interfering directly in the conflict,” he said.


The Independent Gt

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