Ukraine war: Russia claims occupied regions voted overwhelmingly for annexation

Donetsk, Ukraine - Russian officials claim that initial results from annexation referendums staged in Ukraine, which are illegal under international law, show voters in the occupied regions overwhelmingly want to join the Russian Federation.

An election official in Donetsk showing a voter the way.
An election official in Donetsk showing a voter the way.  © REUTERS

State media in Russia reported on Tuesday that more than 97% of voters from Ukraine's Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions who cast ballots at polling stations in Russia were in favor of annexation.

These stations had been organized for people from the four regions who have been displaced to Russia.

A short time later high approval ratings were also reported in Moscow from poll sites in the Russian-occupied territories themselves: According to initial data, more than 87% of voters in Kherson were in favor of joining Russia, and more than 92% in Zaporizhzhia.

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Kyiv and countries around the world repeatedly denounced the five-day vote in areas under martial law as a "sham" and "illegitimate," saying residents were coerced into voting out of fear for their safety and that the results were a foregone conclusion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to address a special session of the UN Security Council later on Tuesday, sources told DPA in New York.

Putin could announce annexation this week

Votes from the referendum held in the Donetsk region of Ukraine being counted.
Votes from the referendum held in the Donetsk region of Ukraine being counted.  © REUTERS

The discredited polls raise the stakes in the seven-month war, with the West accusing Russia of looking to use the annexations as a justification for escalating its invasion.

As a next step, the Moscow-appointed occupation administrations are expected to formally apply to President Vladimir Putin to be incorporated into Russian territory. The Kremlin had indicated that this could happen quickly.

Putin had stressed before the start of the referendums that the territories would be completely under the protection of Russia, including its nuclear arsenal. Reports speculated that he could formally announce the annexation of the four territories in eastern and southern Ukraine as early as this Friday in a speech to both chambers of parliament.

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Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops continue to make gains in the eastern region of Kharkiv.

Following their expulsion from most of the province of Kharkiv in early September, Russian troops retreated behind the line of the Oskil and Siversky Donets rivers.

They were unable to hold this line as Ukrainian troops reported successes in the Donetsk region, coming within a few miles of the Luhansk region.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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