Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Russia prepared Wednesday to formally annex parts of Ukraine After claiming that voters in army-controlled areas overwhelmingly supported living under Moscow.
The armed forces went door to door to collect votes within five days of voting in referendums organized by the Kremlin that questioned whether the occupied territories should become part of Russia. Western observers have described the vote as a land grab by an increasingly beleaguered Russian leadership after a series of embarrassing military losses. in Ukraine.
The administrations installed by Moscow in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that their residents voted to join Russia in the so-called referendums.
“Forcing people in these regions to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is another Russian crime in the context of its aggression against Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry criticized the ballot papers, describing them as a “propaganda show” and “void and worthless.”
Pro-Russian officials in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia regions moved quickly, saying they would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the provinces into Russia. It was not immediately clear how the administrative process would unfold.
However, Western countries rejected the ballot papers As a meaningless excuse made by Moscow in an attempt to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine It was launched on February 24th.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said late Tuesday that Washington would propose a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s “sham” vote.
She added on Twitter that the resolution would urge member states not to recognize any change in Ukraine’s status and to demand that Russia withdraw its forces from its neighbour.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also threw his weight at the ballot papers, on Wednesday, calling them “illegal” and calling the results “rigged”.
“This is yet another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty (and) territorial integrity (in the midst of) systematic human rights violations,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.
The statement of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on the European Union, NATO and the Group of Seven major industrialized countries to intensify pressure “immediately and significantly” on Russia with new sanctions, and significantly increase its military aid to Ukraine.
According to election officials installed in Russia, 93% of the votes cast in the Zaporizhzhya region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk.
But the Kremlin did not move amid a barrage of criticism. Its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia intends to at least push Ukrainian forces out of the eastern Donetsk region, where Moscow and separatist forces currently control about 60% of the territory.
The European Union also expressed outrage over the suspected sabotage On Tuesday, he warned of two underwater natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany and warned of a response to any attack on Europe’s energy networks.
Borrell said Wednesday that “all available information indicates that these leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” although the perpetrators have not yet been identified.
“Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is totally unacceptable and will be met with a strong and united response,” Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the 27 EU member states.
Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said allegations that Russia could be behind these incidents were “predictable and stupid.” He told reporters on a conference call that the damage caused huge economic losses to Russia.
The war in Ukraine has caused an energy confrontation between the European Union, many of whose members for years have relied heavily on supplies of Russian natural gas, and Moscow.
Analysts say the damage makes it unlikely the pipelines will be able to supply any gas to Europe this winter.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military and a Washington-based think tank said on Wednesday that Russia would send troops without any training to the front lines.
Moscow struggled to maintain its position against Ukraine’s latest counter-attack and ordered a partial mobilization to replenish its ranks. This effort causes disturbancesHowever, amid a hesitant audience.
In a daily briefing, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said that the 1st Tank Battalion of the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division of the 1st Russian Tank Army had received new, untrained troops.
The Ukrainian military also said convicts were arriving in Ukraine to reinforce Russian lines. It did not provide any evidence to support this claim, although Ukrainian security services released audio of allegedly censored Russian telephone conversations about the case.
The Institute for the Study of War cited an online video of a man who identified himself as a member of the 1st Tank Regiment, visibly upset, saying that he and his colleagues would not receive training before shipping to occupying Russian forces. Kherson region, Ukraine.
The men mobilized for a day or two of training are unlikely to reinforce Russian positions affected by the Ukrainian counterattack in the south and east, the institute said.
The British Ministry of Defense said that the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which inflicted some humiliating defeats on Moscow’s forces, is progressing slowly.
She said Russia is currently building a tough defence.
In the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, which is partly occupied by Moscow, Russian fire has killed five people and wounded 10 more in the past 24 hours, said Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the local military authority.
Authorities in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikopol said Russian missiles and artillery bombed the city overnight.
The city, located across the Dnipro River from Russian-occupied territory, has seen the destruction of 10 skyscrapers and private buildings, as well as a school, power lines and other areas, Valentin Reznichenko, head of the local military administration, said.
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