The UN says it is “fully committed” to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty “within its internationally recognized boundaries.”
After five days of voting in so-called “referendums” that Kyiv and its allies have branded as fraudulent and a farce, Russian-installed authorities in seized areas of Ukraine have declared overwhelming majorities in favor of joining Russia.
Votes were held in four territories — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson — that account for around 15% of Ukrainian territory.
Authorities in Luhansk said that 98.4 percent of residents opted to join Russia. A Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhia placed the result as 93.1 percent. According to the chairman of the voting committee in Kherson, the “yes” vote exceeded 87 percent.
Denis Pushilin, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s president, said that 99.2 percent of participants in the area opted to join Russia. Officials in all four locations reported that all votes had been counted.
Ballot boxes were moved from house to house inside the seized territory in what Ukraine and its allies have described as an unlawful, forced action to provide a legal excuse for Russia to annex the four regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might then depict any move by Ukraine to retake its territory as an assault on Russia. He said last week that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons to preserve Russia’s “territorial integrity.”
As the vote concluded, the United Nations Security Council conducted an open session in New York City to discuss the referendums.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a video speech to the body immediately after news broke that people of the Zaporizhia region had chosen to join Russia.
“Russia is organizing this so-called fake referendum on seized Ukrainian land in front of the whole world,” Zelenskyy stated. “People are being forced to fill out paperwork while being threatened with submachine guns.”
People who had left the four areas for Russia were also permitted to vote, and the Russian news agency RIA said that early results indicated more than 96 percent in favor of the Ukrainian territory falling under Moscow’s control.
Putin’s supporter, Former President Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, wrote a quick message of congratulations on Telegram. “The referendums are finished,” he said. “The outcomes are obvious. “Welcome home, to Russia!”
No peace talks
Ukraine has consistently warned that Russian annexation of territory would undermine any hope of peace negotiations with Moscow, which has been plundering Ukraine for seven months.
According to Zelenskyy, the votes indicated there would be no room for dialogue.
“With [the] current Russian president, there is nothing to talk about,” he remarked.
The elections were scheduled quickly after Ukraine routed Russian soldiers in the northeastern Kharkiv area and made advances in the south as a September counteroffensive gained traction.
Ukraine’s partners reaffirmed their disapproval of the referendums, with Canada threatening new sanctions.
“Canada does not and will never accept the results of Russia’s bogus referendums or its attempted, unlawful annexation of Ukrainian regions,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement released on social media on Wednesday.
“Let me be clear: the boundaries of Ukraine will not alter.” Ukraine’s land will be retained by Ukraine.”
Splitting the atom
As Russia started to release the referendum results, Medvedev delivered a stark new nuclear threat.
“I want to remind you — the deaf who only hear themselves — that Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary,” he said on Twitter.
According to Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the US takes the repeated threat “seriously” but has seen nothing to lead Washington to reconsider its nuclear posture.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “Russia must understand that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be waged.”