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Russia to begin annexation votes in Ukrainian regions

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LONDON, Sept. 23 (Reuters) – Russia will begin its plan Friday to annex about 15% of Ukraine’s territory through referendums in four regions controlled by Russian forces, a move the West believes is a gross violation of international law. is which significantly escalates the war.

After nearly seven months of war and a critical battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin explicitly backed referendums after Russia-controlled regions lined up to demand quick votes to join Russia. .

The self-proclaimed Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which were recognized as independent just before the invasion, and the Russian-installed governments in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions will vote.

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The vote, which the West and Ukraine say is a sham, will start on Friday and end on Tuesday, with results expected shortly after.

Russia will formally annex the areas after the results.

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“The Kremlin is organizing a mock referendum to try to annex parts of Ukraine,” US President Joe Biden said at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Ukraine has the same rights that belong to any sovereign nation. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine,” said Biden, who pitched the war as part of a global struggle between democracy and autocracy.

Ukraine, whose post-Soviet borders Russia has recognized under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, says it will never accept Russian control of its territory and will fight until the last Russian soldier is ejected.

Putin, Russia’s top leader since 1999, said Russia would never abandon the regions it controls and which he said wanted to secede from Kiev.

He presents the war as both a struggle to save Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine from persecution and as a way to thwart what he believes is a Western plot to destroy Russia. Ukraine denies that Russian speakers have been persecuted.

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In a direct nuclear warning to the West, Putin said he would defend Russian territory – and these regions of Ukraine will soon be considered Russian territory by Moscow – with every means at his disposal.

‘SHAM VOICES’

It is unclear exactly how the voices will work in a war zone when so many people are displaced. Russia controls most of Luhansk and Kherson, about 80% of Zaporizhzhya and only 60% of Donetsk. The battles continue in all four regions.

The results are not in doubt.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Russian-installed officials in the regions set targets for made-up turnout and approval rates, and some turnout figures had already been agreed.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was overthrown during the Maidan revolution in Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea, while Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas – which consists of Donetsk and Luhansk – tried to escape. control of Kyiv.

After Russian forces took control of Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine during Soviet times, a referendum was held on February 27, 2014 on joining Russia on March 16.

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Crimean leaders declared their secession from Ukraine with 97% of the vote. Russia formally added Crimea on March 21. Kiev and the West said the referendum violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law.

“From next week, Russia will regard these Ukrainian territories as part of Russia, and will claim any Ukrainian attempt to retake their own sovereign territory as an ‘invasion of Russia,'” said Britain’s Cleverly.

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Written by Guy Faulconbridge and Felix Light; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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