Hastily arranged votes took place over five days in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson to the south, which together make up about 15 percent of Ukrainian territory. Vote tallies from complete results on Tuesday in the four provinces ranged from 87 percent to 99.2 percent in favour of joining Russia, according to Russia-appointed officials. The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament said the chamber might consider annexation on October 4.
“The results are clear. Welcome home, to Russia!,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former president who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said on Telegram.
“Ukraine has pressed its offensive operations in the north-east of the country over the last few days.
But the Kremlin’s move is backfiring on the front as according to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Ukrainian forces are ever so close to reconquer their territories in the north-east.
The latest MoD statement read: “Units are making slow advances on at least two axes east from the line of the Oskil and Siverskyy Donets rivers, where forces had consolidated following their previous advance earlier in the month.
“Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously, likely because the Ukrainian advance now threatens parts of Luhansk Oblast as voting in the referendum on accession to the Russian Federation closes.
The United States will introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council calling on member states not to recognise any change to Ukraine and obligating Russia to withdraw its troops, US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
“Russia’s sham referenda, if accepted, will open a pandora’s box that we cannot close,” she said at a council meeting.
Russia has the ability to veto a resolution in the Security Council, but Thomas-Greenfield said that would prompt the United States to take the issue to the UN General Assembly.
“Any referenda held under these conditions, at the barrel of a gun, can never be remotely close to free or fair,” Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador James Kariuki said.
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Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told the meeting that the referendums were conducted transparently and in line with electoral norms.
“This process is going to continue if Kyiv does not recognise its mistakes and its strategic errors and doesn’t start to be guided by the interests of its own people and not blindly carry out the will of those people who are playing them,” he said.
If Russia annexes the four Ukrainian regions, Putin could portray any Ukrainian attempt to recapture them as an attack on Russia itself.
Putin said last week he was willing to use nuclear weapons to defend the “territorial integrity” of Russia.
But Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy, told Reuters that Kyiv would not be swayed by nuclear threats or by the annexation votes, and would press on with plans to retake all territory occupied by invading Russian forces.