Ukraine annexation referendum: Pro-Russian authorities claim victory in three regions

KYIV | Pro-Russian authorities in the Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhia, Kherson and Lugansk have claimed a “yes” victory in favor of annexation by Russia, pending the results in a fourth region of annexation “referendums” organized by Moscow and widely denounced by Kyiv and its Western supporters.

Moscow has once again brandished the threat of nuclear weapons to defend these territories.

The electoral commission of the region of Zaporijjia affirmed that 93.11% of the voters had voted for the attachment to Russia, after the counting of 100% of the ballot papers, while specifying that it was a question for the time being preliminary results.

In the Kherson region, the pro-Moscow occupation administration reported that 87.05% of voters voted in favor of “yes”, after counting all the ballots.

Shortly after, those of Lugansk also announced the victory of the yes.


Ukraine annexation referendum: Pro-Russian authorities claim victory in three regions

“Welcome home, to Russia!” Former President Dmitry Medvedev quickly reacted on Telegram.

The counting continued in the fourth Ukrainian region where annexation votes were also held, in Donbass (east), the authorities affirming however that the “yes” largely prevailed in the ballots already counted.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba swept aside the value of these votes during the day, which “will not change anything” in Kyiv’s military actions.

The allies of Ukraine have also denounced these elections, organized in an emergency in the face of the progress of the forces of Kyiv.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs reiterated at a Security Council meeting on Ukraine’s annexation “referendums” on Tuesday, UN support for “Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its “recognized boundaries”. The G7 has vowed to “never recognize” the results and Washington has promised a “severe” response through economic sanctions.

Paris for its part denounced “a masquerade”, “without any legitimacy, any value”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin for his part assured that the goal was to “save the local populations”, Moscow justifying its invasion by accusing Kyiv of “Nazism” and of orchestrating a “genocide” of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

These votes concern more than 20% of the surface of Ukraine.


Ukraine annexation referendum: Pro-Russian authorities claim victory in three regions

“Peace and Stability”

In Crimea, a peninsula annexed in 2014 by Russia, polling stations had been opened especially for refugees from the Donetsk region, partially controlled by Moscow and its separatist allies.

“I hope peace and stability will come for ordinary people, for workers,” said Ruslan Yushkevitch, a 37-year-old mechanic from Mariupol, a port city largely destroyed by fierce fighting.

Claiming its grip on its new territories, Moscow again threatened on Tuesday to use nuclear weapons.

“Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary,” said former president and number two of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev.


Ukraine annexation referendum: Pro-Russian authorities claim victory in three regions

A position confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who recalled Russian military doctrine, which provides for the possibility of such strikes in the event of an attack against Russian territory.

In the evening, the Pentagon affirmed that Washington “takes these threats seriously”, without however “adjusting its nuclear position for the moment”.

Leaks on Nord Stream

At the same time, Russia continues to lead a mobilization of its reservists in order to recruit 300,000 fighters for its invasion of Ukraine, seeking parade in the counter-offensive of the Ukrainian troops who, with the help of Western arms deliveries, recaptured thousands of square kilometers of territory in early September.

In Crimea, an AFP journalist saw rows of mobilized men, often middle-aged, in military fatigues and Kalashnikovs in hand, waiting their turn before boarding buses, while their relatives greeted them and poured tears.

This recruitment campaign, conducted at times in a chaotic manner, has pushed many Russians to flee, an exodus confirmed on Tuesday by two neighboring countries, Georgia and Kazakhstan, while an influx is also observed at the borders of Mongolia and Finland.

Georgia has reported 10,000 Russians crossing the border every day since the mobilization announcement, nearly double the normal. Kazakhstan has reported 98,000 Russian citizens who have arrived since September 21.

“I’m not cannon fodder, I’m not a murderer,” Nikita, a 23-year-old Russian who passed through the Georgian side at the Kazbegi border post, told AFP.

In addition, the Nord Stream gas pipelines built at the bottom of the Baltic Sea to transport Russian gas to Europe have been affected by major leaks.

Although out of service, both tubes were filled with gas.

The Kremlin said it was “extremely concerned”, saying it did not rule out “any” hypothesis, including that of sabotage.

Ukraine, for its part, denounced a Russian “terrorist attack” and “an act of aggression against the European Union”.

The vast leaks in progress are due to “deliberate acts” and “not an accident”, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday evening, for whom they should last “at least a week” until the exhaustion of the methane escaping from underwater pipes.

“Our European partners are investigating. We are ready to support their efforts,” a White House National Security Council spokesman said in Washington.

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