Russia Prepares to Formally Annex 4 Ukraine Regions

Kremlin says move will happen Friday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2022 7:54 AM CDT
Kremlin Says 4 Ukraine Regions Will Be Annexed Friday
People walk past a billboard displaying a soldier and a Russian flag and reading 'We believe in our army and our victory' in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.   (AP Photo)

Russia confirmed on Thursday it will formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held Kremlin-orchestrated "referendums" on living under Moscow’s rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged. Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony on Friday in the Kremlin when four regions of Ukraine will be officially folded into Russia, spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Peskov said the pro-Moscow administrators of the regions will sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall, the AP reports.

The official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in the areas under Russian occupation in Ukraine and after Moscow claimed residents voted overwhelmingly supported in favor of their areas formally becoming part of Russia. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday joined other Western officials in denouncing the votes. "Under threats and sometimes even (at) gunpoint people are being taken out of their homes or workplaces to vote in glass ballot boxes," she said at a conference in Berlin. "This is the opposite of free and fair elections," Baerbock said. "And this is the opposite of peace. It’s dictated peace. As long as this Russian diktat prevails in the occupied territories of Ukraine, no citizen is safe. No citizen is free."

Armed troops had gone door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting. The suspiciously high margins in favor were characterized as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership after embarrassing military losses in Ukraine. Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region, and 99% in Donetsk. Russia is not in full control of any of the four regions. Ukraine has dismissed the referendums as illegitimate, saying it has every right to retake the occupied territories, a position that has won support from Washington.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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