All four of Ukraine’s occupied regions voted to join Russia after referendums in the republics and regions, pro-Moscow officials said.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is one of many Western politicians who have previously described the votes in the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as “fake” referendums. “.
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet in New York later to discuss a resolution that says the outcome will never be accepted and that the four regions remain part of the UN Security Council. Ukraine.
It comes after Russian-installed election officials said 93% of the votes in the Zaporizhzhia region were in favor of annexation, as well as 87% of the votes in the southern Kherson region, 98% in Luhansk and 99% in Donetsk.
Referendums begin on September 23, often with armed officials going door-to-door.
Moscow-backed officials in four occupied regions in southern and eastern Ukraine said polls closed on Tuesday afternoon after five days of voting.
Tens of thousands of residents have had to leave the areas because of the war.
The predetermined outcomes set the stage for a dangerous new phase in Russia’s seven-month war in Ukraine as they were supposed to be the pretext for Moscow’s annexation of the four regions.
That could happen as soon as Friday.
Meanwhile, Russia has stepped up warnings that it could deploy nuclear weapons to defend its territory, including newly acquired land.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after the vote that “the situation will change radically from the legal point of view, from the point of view of international law, with all corresponding consequences for the protection of the area and ensure their security”.
Moscow has also mobilized more than a quarter of a million troops to deploy to a front line more than 620 miles long.
It came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council via video from Kyiv that Russia’s attempt to annex Ukrainian territory would mean “nothing to say about this Russian president.” “.
Comments seem to rule out negotiations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to speak to his country’s parliament about the referendum on Friday, and Valentina Matviyenko, the president of the upper house of parliament, said lawmakers may consider the merger law in October 4th.
The referendums follow a familiar Kremlin book on territorial expansion.
In 2014, Russian authorities held a similar referendum on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, under the close supervision of the Russian military.
Based on the vote, Russia annexed Crimea.
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Mr. Putin cited the protection of Russians living in the eastern regions of Ukraine, and their alleged desire to join Russia, as a pretext for his February 24 invasion of Ukraine. .
The Russian president has been talking about Moscow’s nuclear option ever since the Ukrainians launched a counter-offensive to retake territory and increasingly corner his forces.
A top Putin aide delivered a nuclear rhetoric on Tuesday.
“Imagine that Russia was forced to use its most powerful weapons against the Ukrainian regime that has committed a large-scale act of aggression, endangering the very existence of our state,” Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia. in which Putin sits, wrote on his messaging app channel.
“I believe that NATO will avoid direct intervention in the conflict.”
The United States has dismissed the Kremlin’s nuclear talks as a scare tactic.