This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Kyiv said on September 28 that Moscow-orchestrated votes on becoming part of Russia held in four Ukrainian regions partially controlled by Moscow were “null and worthless,” and called on the West to “significantly” increase its military aid to Ukraine.
Russian-backed officials had announced the final results earlier, saying voters had “overwhelmingly” supported becoming part of Russia. Two Moscow-appointed regional heads sent “requests” to join Russia shortly after
Referendums that the West and United Nations have called “sham” votes took place between September 23- and September 27 in the parts of the Zaporizhzhya, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kherson regions that are under Moscow’s military occupation. The territories account for about 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory.
The move has been dismissed by Ukraine, Western governments, and the United Nations because the vote is illegal under international law.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Russian-staged votes were “null and worthless” and urged its international partners to impose tough new sanctions on Moscow and provide Kyiv with more military aid.
“Ukraine will never agree to any ultimatums,” the ministry said.
“Ukraine calls on the EU, NATO, and the Group of Seven to immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing tough sanctions and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine,” it said.
The White House called the referendums “illegal and illegitimate” and said that the United States will not recognize Russian-annexed areas in Ukraine. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing that the referendums were manipulated by Moscow and would be challenged internationally.
“Based on our information, every aspect of this referanda process was pre-staged and orchestrated by the Kremlin,” Jean-Pierre said.
“Regardless of Russia’s claims, this remains Ukrainian territory,” she added.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on September 28 slammed the “illegal annexation” votes and their “falsified” results.
“EU denounces holding of illegal ‘referenda’ and their falsified outcome,” Borrell said on Twitter.
“This is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, amidst systematic abuses of human rights,” he said.
The sham referendum was held amid claims by some local officials that voters have been threatened and coerced into voting. Election officials brought ballot boxes house-to-house in many cases accompanied by armed Russian forces.
In eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, 99.23 percent of those who came to the polls voted for its entry into Russia, prompting Moscow-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin to hail the result as “colossal.”
In another eastern region, Luhansk, Russia-appointed election officials said the final result was 98.42 percent in favor of the annexation
After the announcement of the final results, the Moscow-backed administrator of the Luhansk region, Leonid Pasechnik, sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a request for the territory under his control to join Russia, citing alleged Ukrainian crimes and the threat of genocide as the reason.
“Taking into account the decision of the republic’s population at the referendum, I am asking you to consider making the Luhansk People’s Republic a subject of the Russian Federation,” Pasechnik said in a statement.
The head of the Russian-controlled part of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, later followed suit.
“Our residents made a historic choice and decided to become part of the multinational population of the Russian Federation, in which all people are equal before each other and before the law,” Saldo said in a statement published on social media.
The requests are seen as a prelude to Putin declaring their annexation in the coming days.
Valentina Matviyenko, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Putin was scheduled to address the parliament about the referendums on September 30 and said lawmakers could consider annexation legislation on October 4 — three days before Putin celebrates his 70th birthday.