Russia positioned itself Wednesday to formally annex parts of Ukraine where occupied areas held a Kremlin-orchestrated “referendum” on living under Moscow’s rule that the Ukrainian government and the West denounced as illegal and rigged.
Armed troops had gone door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting. The suspiciously high margins in favor were characterized as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership after embarrassing military losses in Ukraine.
Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that 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.
Pro-Russia officials in the four regions said they would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate their provinces into Russia on the basis of announced vote results. Separatist leaders Leonid Pasechnik in Luhansk and Denis Pushilin in Donetsk said they were leaving for Moscow to settle the annexation formalities.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called the balloting “a propaganda show” and “null and worthless.” [Continue reading…]