Kremlin proxy declares victory in referendum, Ukraine calls it evening

Kremlin-funded officials in four Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories claimed victory in the annexation votes on Tuesday, sparking global outrage as Moscow warned it could use nuclear weapons to defend regions.

Ukraine and its allies have denounced the so-called referendum, saying the West will never recognize the results of the votes that significantly impacted the stakes of the seven-month Russian invasion.

Pro-Russian officials in Zaporizhzhya said 93.11% of voters are in favor of joining Russia, according to preliminary results on Tuesday evening.

In Kherson, another Moscow-occupied region in southern Ukraine, officials said more than 87.05 percent of voters supported the decision after all ballots were counted.

In the eastern Lugansk region, controlled by pro-Russian separatists, more than 98.42% voted in favor of the merger, according to local officials.

And officials from the Moscow-occupied Donetsk region also claimed victory, with the local electoral body saying 99.23 percent of the vote was in favor of annexation.

“Saving people in the regions where this referendum is taking place … is the goal of our whole society and the whole country,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with officials on television.

Its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the votes would have “radical” legal implications and the so-called referendum “will also have security implications”, referring to Moscow’s threat to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory.

‘nothing to say’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised on Tuesday that Kiev would protect its citizens in the territories occupied by Moscow and called the referendum a “spectacle”.

And he said the votes meant Kiev would not negotiate with Moscow.

“There is nothing to discuss with the current Russian president,” Zelensky said.

This month, the Russian military suffered a severe setback in eastern and southern Ukraine, which observers say prompted Putin to carry out a vote to strengthen Moscow’s authority there.

Putin said Russia will use all available means to defend its territory, which means that after the occupation Moscow could deploy strategic nuclear weapons to thwart Ukrainian attempts to recapture the region. .

“I want to remind you – to the deaf who only hear themselves: Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons,” former leader Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s ally, said on Tuesday on social media.

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said the US took the repeated threat “seriously” but saw no incentive for Washington to change its nuclear stance.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said “Russia should know that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought”.

The four Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine have announced that they will hold elections a few days before voting starts on Friday.

Together they form an important land link between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula to the Kremlin, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and is otherwise connected to the mainland only by a bridge.

“Satanic plan”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised that the West will never recognize Russia’s annexation of the regions, threatening Moscow with “additional and terrible costs” for its “satanic plan”.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, on a surprise visit to Kiev to meet Zelensky, called the elections an “excuse” that would trigger new Western sanctions.

At the United Nations, senior official Rosemary DiCarlo told a Security Council meeting that the body is fully committed to the territorial integrity of Ukraine “within its internationally recognized borders.”

There is no chance that the Security Council – where Russia has the veto – will reach a united position in the annexation phase.

However, the United States intends to present a resolution urging member states “not to recognize any change in the status of Ukraine and to force Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine,” said the American envoy. Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the attack on Ukraine, has not yet openly condemned the attack, but on Tuesday told the Security Council that “the territorial integrity of all countries must be respected.” .
The so-called referendums follow a model used by Moscow in Crimea, after nationwide street protests overthrew the pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine.

As in the Crimea, observers saw the result as a fatality. Electoral officials carried ballot boxes door-to-door in many cases with the Russian military.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continued their counter-offensive to the east.

The governor of the eastern region of Kharkiv announced Tuesday that his forces have reoccupied Kupiyansk-Vuzlovy, “one of the largest logistics and rail hubs” in the region and was unaware of this week’s vote.

Polling stations in Crimea were open to those who fled after the Russian invasion in February.

Galina Korsakova, 63, from Donetsk, told AFP: “With my voice I want to try to make a small contribution to stop the war.”

“I really want to go home.”

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