On Friday, Russia will officially take over up to 18% of Ukrainian land. President Vladimir Putin will hold a ceremony in the Kremlin to make it official that four occupied Ukrainian areas are now part of Russia.
Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the event would take place on Friday at 15:00 local time (08:00 ET) in the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall. He said that Putin will give a speech and meet with the leaders of the four occupied regions who are supported by Russia.
People in four occupied parts of Ukraine are said to have voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia in five-day polls that were against international law and were called a fraud by Kyiv and the West. Peskov’s announcement came after the polls were said to have been fraud by Kyiv and the West.
The referendums were conducted by Russian-backed separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in the eastern Donbas area, where conflict has raged since rebels took control of portions of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014. During fierce warfare, smoke rises throughout the city of Severodonetsk. According to Ukrainian military officials, Russia’s present objective is to capture the city.
Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine were the other two areas to have so-called referendums. Russia has held the two districts since late February, shortly after invading the country. After the so-called referendum in Kherson, the president of the government there, Vladimir Saldo, asked Putin on Wednesday to take over the area.
In all four places, the Moscow-aligned leaders said that the processes led to huge majorities in favor of joining Russian sovereignty: 87.05 percent in Kherson, 93.11 percent in Zaporizhzhya, 98.42 percent in the LPR, and 99.23 percent in the DPR.
Experts stated it was impossible to organize a free and fair election in a conflict zone or occupied territory, and therefore the process was universally condemned as illegitimate. Rosemary DiCarlo, a top United Nations official, said the votes “cannot be called a true representation of popular opinion.”.
Reports on Voting
According to reports from the ground, voting in the seized territories was done essentially—and in some cases, physically—at gunpoint. Serhii Hayday, the head of the Ukrainian military administration in the Luhansk region, said that armed guards were following officials from door to door to collect votes and that people in the area were being forced to vote to join Russia.
Data from before the war also contradicts the findings. Only 18% of Ukrainians in the east, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, agreed with the statement “Russia and Ukraine should be one country,” while 16% of Ukrainians in the south, which includes the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, agreed.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, termed the procedure a “farce” that “cannot even be considered a mockery of referendums.” Zelensky also accused Russia of employing the same strategy that it used when it annexed Crimea in 2014. A referendum held there, in which 97% of people supported annexation, was ratified by Russian MPs within a week. Much of the international community did not accept that result, and it appears that they will do so again with Tuesday’s results.
According to an image tweeted by the Russia-appointed deputy director of the Kherson regional military administration, Kirill Stremousov, some of the separatist leaders involved in staging bogus referendums to separate from Ukraine and join Russia arrived in Moscow on Thursday. LPR chief Leonid Pasechnik was also in Moscow on Thursday, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
According to Reuters, a stage with massive television displays has been erected in Red Square, along with signs reading “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson-Russia!”. TASS reported that a gathering in support of referendum results would be organized in front of the Kremlin on Friday.
On September 27, a news conference was held in Donetsk, Ukraine, to announce the preliminary results of a referendum on the DPR’s accession to Russia.
Anton Krasyvyi oars passengers across the Siverskyi-Donets river in front of a collapsed bridge on September 27 so they can visit family in Staryi-Saltiv, Ukraine.
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