Russia will start voting on annexation in Ukrainian regions Reuters writes

Russia will start voting on annexation in Ukrainian regions Reuters writes

© Reuters. A member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic stands guard at a polling station ahead of a planned referendum on the Donetsk People’s Republic joining Russia, in Donetsk, Ukraine, September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoch

LONDON (Reuters) – Russia will on Friday begin its plan to annex about 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory through a referendum in four regions controlled by Russian forces, a move the West says is a gross violation of international law and significantly escalates the war.

After nearly seven months of war and a critical defeat on the battlefield in northeastern Ukraine earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin explicitly backed referendums after Russian-controlled regions lined up to seek a quick vote to join Russia.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Putin recognized as independent shortly before the invasion, and the Russian administrations in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions will hold the vote.

The vote, which the West and Ukraine say is fraudulent, is due to start on Friday and end on Tuesday, with results expected soon after.

Russia will formally annex those areas after the results.

“The Kremlin is organizing fake referendums to try to annex parts of Ukraine,” US President Joe Biden said at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Ukraine has the same rights that belong to any sovereign nation. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine,” said Biden, who characterized the war as part of a global competition between democracy and autocracy.

Ukraine, whose post-Soviet borders were recognized by Russia in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, says it will never accept Russian control of any of its territory and will fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled.

Putin, Russia’s top leader since 1999, has said Russia will never abandon those in regions it controls that he has said he wants to break away from Kiev.

He sees the war both as a battle to save Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine from persecution and as a way to thwart what he says is a Western conspiracy to destroy Russia. Ukraine denies that Russian-speaking people are being persecuted.

In a direct nuclear warning to the West, Putin said he would defend Russian territory – and these regions of Ukraine will soon be considered Russian territory by Moscow – with all means at his disposal.

‘FAKE VOICES’

It’s unclear exactly how votes will work in a war zone when so many people have been displaced. Russia controls most of Lugansk and Kherson, about 80% of Zaporozhye and only 60% of Donetsk. Fighting continues in all four regions.

The results are not questionable.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Russian officials in the regions were setting targets for fictitious voter turnout and approval rates, with some turnout figures already agreed.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was ousted in Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, while Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass, which consists of Donetsk and Luhansk, sought to break away from Kiev’s control .

After Russian forces took control of Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine during the Soviet era, on February 27, 2014, a referendum on joining Russia was held on March 16.

Crimea’s leaders declared 97% of the vote to secede from Ukraine. Russia formally added Crimea on March 21. Kiev and the West said the referendum violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law.

“From next week, Russia will consider these Ukrainian territories as part of Russia and will consider any Ukrainian attempt to regain its own sovereign territory an ‘invasion of Russia,'” said Britain’s Cleverly.



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