“Yes” to annex regions of Ukraine to Russia wins
LONDON/ZAPORIJJIA (Reuters) – Officials from four Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have announced a landslide victory for the ‘yes’ referenda on joining Russia.
Voting took place over five days in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, which together make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
Lugansk authorities announced that 98.4% of voters said they wanted to join Russia. In Zaporijjia, yes to attachment wins with 93.1%. The chairman of the Kherson region election commission announced that the “Yes” received 87% of the votes.
Denis Pushilin, leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR), stated that 99.2% of voters were in favor of joining Russia.
According to the head of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament could debate the integration of Ukrainian provinces on October 4.
Ukraine and its Western backers claim that these consultations have no legitimacy and are used as a pretext for Moscow to announce the annexation of these regions.
The Russian president could then label any attempt to retake these territories from Ukraine as aggression against Russia itself.
Vladimir Putin hinted on September 21 that he was ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity.”
“The referendums are over,” wrote Dmitry Medvedev, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, on Telegram. “The results are clear. Welcome back to Russia!”
THE ANNEXATION WILL MAKE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS IMPOSSIBLE
Ukraine has repeatedly warned that any further annexation of territory by Russia would make peace talks impossible.
Kyiv also said Ukrainians who helped Russia organize the referendums would face charges of treason and face at least five years in prison.
Ukrainians forced to vote will not be penalized.
These referendums are reminiscent of the 2014 referendum organized in Crimea by the Moscow-installed authorities on annexing the peninsula to Russia, where the “yes” received 97% of the vote.
Vladimir Putin told Russian TV on Tuesday that the referenda were held to protect people from what he called the persecution of Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine, allegations Kyiv denied.
(Reporting by Marc Trevelyan, Guy Faulconbridge and Jonathan Landay, with the contribution of the editors of Reuters and Cynthia Osterman; French version Camille Raynaud)
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