President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine will “defend” its citizens in Russian-occupied regions, as authorities there announced the results of so-called referendums that have already been denounced by the West.
“This farce in the occupied territory cannot even be called an imitation of referendums,” Zelenskiy said in a video posted on Telegram on Tuesday. “We will act to protect our people: both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbass, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region and in Crimea.
The Ukrainian president’s comments came as officials from four Moscow-occupied regions of the country claimed victory in the referendums, which were condemned by Western leaders as sham ballots.
The local polling body in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia said 93.1% of voters opted for Russian annexation after all ballots were counted, adding that it was a preliminary result.
In Kherson, also in the southeast, authorities said 87% of voters opted for Russian annexation after the vote count ended.
In the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, controlled by pro-Russian separatists, 98.4% opted for annexation by Russia, Russian news agencies said, citing local authorities. “It is clear” that Luhansk would return to Russian rule, Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.
In neighboring Donetsk region, the polling body said 99.2% of voters opted for Russian annexation after all ballots were counted, according to news agencies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the West will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, which he called Moscow’s “diabolical plan”.
NATO has denounced the referendums as a “sham” and a “violation of international law”.
The UN has said it is committed to Ukraine’s territorial integrity within recognized borders.
Earlier, in a speech to the UN Security Council, Zelenskiy warned that Ukraine would not be able to negotiate with Russia after the votes.
“Russia’s recognition of the pseudo-referendums as ‘normal’, the implementation of the so-called Crimea scenario and a new attempt to annex Ukrainian territory mean that there is nothing to say,” said he said in a video message.
“In front of the eyes of the whole world, Russia is carrying out an outright farce called ‘referendum’ on the occupied territory of Ukraine,” he said.
“People are forced to fill out paperwork for a television image under the jaws of machine guns. The figures for the so-called results of the pseudo-referendum have been drawn in advance.
President Vladimir Putin is due to address both houses of Russia’s parliament on Friday and could use the address to formally announce the membership of Ukrainian territories that have held referenda as Russia, the UK Defense Ministry said in its latest update. up-to-date information.
Putin said on Tuesday that Russia wanted to “save people” in the territories.
With Agence France Presse