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Putin expected to annex parts of Ukraine after ‘referendums’ end

Putin expected to annex parts of Ukraine after ‘referendums’ end


KYIV: The four days of stage-managed referendums on joining Russia in occupied parts of Ukraine, which wrap up on Tuesday, blended raw intimidation tactics, including armed men in ski masks at polling stations, Orwellian messaging and efforts at festivities, such as thinly attended concerts on central squares. The referendums were a show of supposed democracy by Russia, but one that is likely to have chilling real-world consequences. The purported results, which could be announced as soon as Tuesday, are expected to claim that most residents voted to join Russia, with the Kremlin then formally announcing annexation as soon as this week.
By early afternoon on Tuesday, Russian-installed officials in occupied regions reported huge majorities in favour of becoming part of Russia. Hastily arranged votes had taken place in four areas – the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and to the south Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – that make up about 15% of Ukrainian territory. Luhansk authorities said 98.5% of people there had voted to join Russia, based on 69% of ballots counted. In Zaporizhzhia, a Russian-appointed official put the figure at 93.1 % with the count now completed. while in Kherson the “yes” vote was running at more than 87%, according to the head of the voting committee. Russia’s Tass news agency said 93.95% in Donetsk region had voted in favour, with nearly 32% of the ballots counted.
The staged votes earned broad international condemnation, and world leaders have vowed not to recognise the announced results. “They bang loudly, they ring the doorbell, they give people a ballot and point with their rifles where to put the mark,” Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, said in an interview. The results from the referendum will be meaningless, he said. The aim is apparent: to claim the land in four provinces partly occupied by the Russian army as Russian and assert that Ukraine is now attacking Russia, not the other way around.
President Vladimir Putin said Russia will defend the territories with any means. The country has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia who now serves as deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council, reiterated on Telegram on Tuesday that Moscow had the right to defend itself with nuclear weapons and that was “definitely not a bluff.” Formal annexation would require a vote in the Russian parliament. Putin is scheduled to address both houses on Friday, suggesting that a possible vote on annexation could take place then, British military intelligence reported.
Ukrainians have expressed fear that an immediate consequence of annexation would be conscription into the Russian military and being forced to take up arms against their own country.


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