Russia prepares to annex occupied Ukraine after sham vote

Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Russia is preparing Wednesday to formally annex parts of Ukraine The occupied territories held a Kremlin-orchestrated “referendum” – denounced by Kyiv and the West as illegal and fraudulent – on living under Moscow’s rule.

The armed forces contacted election officials to collect votes within five days of voting. The results were widely derided as implausible and described as a land grab by the increasingly beleaguered Russian leadership after embarrassing military losses. in Ukraine.

The administrations installed by Moscow in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that residents voted to join Russia.

“Forcing people in these regions to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is another Russian crime in the context of its aggression against Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said, adding that the vote was a “propaganda show” and “null.” It has no value.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged the 27 EU member states to impose more sanctions on Russian officials and trade over “sham referendums”. She described the ballot papers as an “illegal attempt to seize territory and change international borders by force.”

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said the ballot was “fake” and the result “unreasonably claimed” that residents agreed to rule from Moscow.

Pro-Russian officials in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya regions said Wednesday that they will ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate their provinces into Russia. Separatist leaders Leonid Bashnik in Luhansk and Denis Pushlin in Donetsk said they would leave for Moscow to settle annexation measures.

According to election officials installed in Russia, 93% of the votes cast in the Zaporizhzhya region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk.

However, Western countries refused to vote As a meaningless excuse made by Moscow in an attempt to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine It was launched on February 24th.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said Washington would propose a Security Council resolution condemning the “sham” vote. She added on Twitter that the resolution would urge member states not to recognize any change in Ukraine’s status and to demand that Russia withdraw its forces from its neighbour.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called the vote “illegal” and called the results “rigged”.

“This is yet another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty (and) territorial integrity (amongst) systematic violations of human rights,” he wrote on Twitter.

The statement of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry asked the European Union, NATO and the Group of Seven industrialized nations to “immediately and substantially” escalate pressure on Russia with new sanctions and significantly increase its military aid to Kyiv.

The Kremlin did not move amid a barrage of criticism. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia intends to at least remove Ukrainian forces from the Donetsk region, where Moscow and separatist forces currently control about 60% of the territory.

Russia called up 300,000 reservists to fight in the war and warned it could resort to nuclear weapons after Ukraine’s counterattack this month caused severe setbacks for Russian forces on the battlefield. Partial mobilization is very unpopular in some areas, however, sparking sporadic protests and violence And the Russians are fleeing the country by the tens of thousands.

The mobilization prompted the US Embassy in Moscow to warn Americans in Russia to leave immediately because “Russia may refuse to recognize US dual citizenship, deny their access to US consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and recruit dual nationals for military service.” Previous US embassy security alerts also advised to leave, saying they may be harassed and have difficulty obtaining consular assistance.

The European Union expressed outrage over the suspected sabotage On Tuesday, he warned of two underwater natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany and warned of a response to any attack on Europe’s energy networks.

“All available information indicates that these leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” Borrell said, although the perpetrators have not yet been identified.

“Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is totally unacceptable and will be met with a strong and united response,” Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the 27 EU member states.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov said allegations that Russia might be behind the incidents were “expected and stupid”, saying the damage had caused huge economic losses to Russia.

The war caused an energy crisis between the European Union, many of whose members for years had relied heavily on supplies of Russian natural gas, and Moscow.

Analysts say the damage makes it unlikely the pipelines will be able to supply any gas to Europe this winter.

Ukraine’s military and Western analysts said Russia is sending troops without any training to the front lines.

In a briefing, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said that the 1st Tank Battalion of the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division of the 1st Tank Army of Russia had received new, untrained troops.

The Ukrainian military also said the jailed convicts were bolstering Russian lines. It did not provide any evidence to support this claim, although Ukraine’s security services have released audio of allegedly monitored Russian telephone conversations about the case.

The Institute for the Study of War cited an online video of a man who introduced himself as a member of the 1st Tank Regiment, visibly upset, saying that he and his colleagues would not receive training before shipping to the Russian-occupied parts. Kherson region.

The men mobilized for a day or two of training are unlikely to reinforce Russian positions affected by the Ukrainian counterattack in the south and east, the institute said.

The British Ministry of Defense said the Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing slowly, offset by a more solid Russian defence.

Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the local military authority, said Russian attacks in the partially occupied Donetsk region had killed five people and wounded 10 over the past 24 hours.

Authorities in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikopol said Russian missiles and artillery bombed the city overnight.

The city, located across the Dnieper River from Russian-occupied territory, has seen the destruction of 10 high-rise and private buildings, as well as a school, power lines and other areas, Valentin Reznichenko, head of the local military administration, said.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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