Russia to formally annex four more areas of Ukraine after Sham Referendum

Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday formally annexing four more areas of Ukraine after self-styled referendums condemned by Ukraine and the West as a sham.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday formally annexing four more areas of Ukraine after self-styled referendums condemned by Ukraine and the West as a sham.

Russian-backed officials had earlier claimed the five-day exercise secured almost total popular support.

So-called votes were held in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

The Russian president will make a major speech at the Kremlin.

A stage has already been set up in Moscow’s Red Square, with billboards proclaiming the four regions as part of Russia. There were echoes of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which also followed a discredited referendum and was heralded by a presidential victory speech from a stage.

The moves toward annexation come after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial military mobilization last week, sparking protests and prompting tens of thousands of Russian men to flee the country. The Kremlin’s announcements signaled a new willingness from Putin to escalate the seven-month war, after losing significant ground to Ukrainian counteroffensives in Ukraine’s northeast.

Analysts warn that annexing the territories could enable Moscow to label Ukrainian attacks on those regions as attacks on Russia itself, raising the threat of a retaliatory nuclear strike.

In near-synchronized announcements, Moscow-backed officials in four Ukrainian regions — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — said last week that they would hold “referendums” from Sept. 23 to 27 on joining Russia. Putin quickly voiced his support.Russia insisted the process and results were legitimate. But voting, which ended Tuesday, took place without credible international observers, and the entire process was under the control of the Russian government and occupying forces. Residents were visited in their homes and forced, sometimes at gunpoint, to check “yes” or “no” on joining Russia. Voting centers were also set up in schools, theaters and special polling stations. Russian state media claimed that 99 percent of voters in Donetsk favored accession, as did 98 percent in Luhansk, 93 percent in Zaporizhzhia and 87 percent in Kherson, according to Tass. Altogether, the Russia-occupied regions make up nearly 15 percent of Ukraine’s total territory, according to the Institute for the Study of War.


BBC and The Washington Post

Who should be the next senator from California?