Four Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine to hold annexation referendums

Four Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine to hold annexation referendums
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Russian-appointed authorities in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are set to hold referendums on joining Russia this week, prompting strong condemnation from the West

Authorities installed by Moscow in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions in the east and south of the country announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia, a move that would distinctly escalate the war.

Luhansk, Kherson, and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions are set to hold referendums this week, starting on Friday through to Monday. 

The efforts which have seen as Kremlin’s response to its recent battlefield defeats in northeast Ukraine, immediately prompted Western countries to strongly react, while Ukraine described the referendums as “sham.”

Russia launched an invasion campaign of Ukraine on. Feb.24, saying it is conduction a “special military operation.” 

Entering the seventh month of the war, authorities of four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, announced plans this week to hold referendums on joining Russia, a move backed by Kremlin.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the current situation confirms that the people of the respective territories want to be “masters of their fate.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the referendums as “sham,” saying that they will not change anything.

“Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” Kuleba said via a Twitter post on Tuesday. 

The announcement of the annexation votes quickly dismissed as illegitimate by the Western powers.

The US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that Washington will never recognize Russia's claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine. 

“We will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine,” Reuters cited Sullivan as saying.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Putin will only give up his war if he realizes that he cannot win and this is why they will never accept a “pretentious referendum,” during his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Deutsche Welle reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron also slammed the plans as a “parody” and said his country will never recognize the results of the referendums, France24 said

The EU also strongly denounced the plans over the annexation votes.

“This is Russia’s attempt to legitimize its illegal military control and aims to forcibly change Ukraine’s borders in clear violation of the UN Charter and Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” European Union foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell’s office said in a written statement on Wednesday. 

“The EU strongly condemns these planned illegal ‘referenda,’ which go against the legal and democratically elected Ukrainian authorities, are in violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in blatant breach of international law,” Borrell said.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea in a similar manner. Moscow seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine before formally annexing it following a disputed referendum which saw Crimeans to vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with 97 percent.