Kremlin proxies claiming victory in ‘sham’ annexation votes

Kremlin-installed authorities were already claiming victory Tuesday in annexation votes in Ukrainian regions under Russian control, as Moscow it could use nuclear weapons to defend the territories.

Ukraine and its allies have denounced the so-called referendums as a sham and said the West would never recognize the results of the ballots that have dramatically ratcheted up the stakes of Russia’s seven-month invasion.

Election officials in Moscow said voters casting their ballots in Russia had overwhelmingly backed annexation, while authorities in Kherson and another Russian-occupied region, Zaporizhzhia, showed an initial 87 and 92 percent backing for the move.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile said the votes would have “radical” legal implications and that the so-called referendums “will also have consequences for security”, referring to Moscow’s threats to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory.

Russian forces in Ukraine this month have suffered serious setbacks, both in the east and south of the country, which observers say pushed Putin to rush ahead with the vote to cement Moscow’s authority there.

Putin said Russia would use any and all available means to defend its territory, implying that after the four regions were annexed Moscow could deploy strategic nuclear weapons to repulse Ukrainian attempts to take back the territory.

The four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine — Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — announced that they would hold the elections just days before voting began last Friday.

The EU spokesman Peter Stano announced the bloc would slap sanctions on organizers of the “illegal” vote, following a similar move by Britain earlier in the week.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna meanwhile was in Kyiv for a surprise visit to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and underscore her country’s support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

– Counter-offensive –

Like then, the outcome of the ballot is being viewed by observers as a foregone conclusion. Election officials brought door-to-door ballot boxes in many cases accompanied by armed Russian forces.

Ukrainian forces meanwhile have pursued their counter-offensive in the east.

Polling stations were open in Crimea for people who fled fighting after the Russian invasion in February.

Along with threats to use nuclear weapons, Putin announced the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian men to bolster Moscow’s army in Ukraine, sparking demonstrations and an exodus of men abroad.

Former Soviet Georgia, which was invaded by Russia in 2008, said the numbers of Russians crossing its borders had increased to around 10,000 people daily since Putin’s announcement.

The Russian defense ministry said it would not seek the extradition of those who fled to Georgia and Kazakhstan to evade the draft.

Originally published as Kremlin proxies claiming victory in ‘sham’ annexation votes


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