Sep 28, 2022
By Bob Komsic
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia was poised Wednesday to formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held a Kremlin-orchestrated “referendum” — denounced by Kyiv and the West, including Canada, as illegal and rigged — on living under Moscow’s rule.
Armed troops had gone door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting. The results were widely ridiculed as implausible and characterized as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership following embarrassing military loses in Ukraine.
Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that residents had voted to join Russia.
“Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said, adding that the balloting was “a propaganda show” and “null and worthless.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the European Union’s 27 member countries to slap more sanctions on Russian officials and trade over the “sham referendums.” She labeled the ballots “an illegal attempt to grab land and change international borders by force.”
The ballot was “falsified” and the outcome “implausibly claimed” that residents had agreed to rule from Moscow, the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said.
Pro-Russia officials in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions said Wednesday they would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate their provinces into Russia. Separatist leaders Leonid Pasechnik in Luhansk and Denis Pushilin in Donetsk said they were leaving for Moscow to settle the annexation formalities.
According to Russia-installed election officials, 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.
Western countries, however, dismissed the balloting as a meaningless pretense staged by Moscow in an attempt to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine launched February 24.