Russia says it won annexation vote that US calls a sham
In referendums in four Russian-occupied provinces of Ukraine, conducted under Russian electoral supervision and often with armed Russian officials canvassing for votes, the winner on Tuesday was — unsurprisingly — Russia.
Moscow said residents of those four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in an election decried as a sham by the United States and its Western allies. The only upheaval was the vote in Kherson with only 87% in favor, against 99% in Donetsk, 98% in Lugansk and 93% in Zaporizhzhia.
The seemingly preordained outcome sets the stage for a dangerous new phase in Russia’s seven-month war, with the Kremlin threatening to throw more troops into the battle. Moscow also continued to issue vague warnings about its willingness to use nuclear weapons, this time suggesting they could be used to defend the new territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely announce the addition of the new land in parliament on Friday in a bid to bolster public support for the war, the UK Ministry of Defense said. Valentina Matviyenko, who chairs the body’s upper house, said lawmakers could consider annexation legislation on October 4.
Once the rapid process is completed, “the situation will change radically from a legal point of view, from the point of view of international law, with all the corresponding consequences for the protection of these areas and the guarantee of their security”, the door said on Tuesday. -spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council that “any annexation in the modern world is a crime, a crime against all states which consider the inviolability of borders to be vital for themselves”. He appeared to rule out future negotiations, adding, “There’s nothing to talk about with this president of Russia.”
►The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it will deliver the first two advanced NASAMS anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine within the next two months, along with six more within the next two years. Kyiv has been pushing for these weapons since the beginning of this year.
►More than 60 police raided a luxury yacht in northern Germany linked to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Prosecutors said they were investigating possible violations of sanctions and money laundering rules.
►Japan protested to Russia on Tuesday over the detention of a Japanese consulate official over espionage allegations. Japan has denied the allegations and accused Russian authorities of abusive interrogations. The official was arrested on Thursday and questioned with his eyes covered, his hands and head pressed and immobilized, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
►A mission of French specialists has arrived in Ukraine to help document Russian war crimes near Izium.
The discovery of unusual leaks on two gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany has led some European leaders and experts to suggest that sabotage could be a possible cause amid an energy standoff with Russia due to the war in Ukraine.
The leaks were detected after three large underwater explosions recorded Monday at seismic stations in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday that her government viewed the leaks as the result of “deliberate actions”, adding that the author was not known.
The first explosion was recorded early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, said Bjorn Lund, director of the Swedish National Seismic Network. A second, stronger explosion northeast of the island that night was equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake. “There’s no doubt this isn’t an earthquake,” Lund said.
The pipelines were idle but still contained gas – mostly methane – bubbling up to the sea surface, as shown on images broadcast by the Danish army.
When asked if the leaks could have been caused by sabotage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “no version could be ruled out”.
Nearly 100,000 Russians have fled to neighboring Kazakhstan since President Vladimir Putin last week announced a mobilization of 300,000 civilians as men of military age try to avoid being sent to war in Ukraine.
Kazakhstan’s Interior Minister Marat Akhmetzhanov said the roughly 98,000 Russians who arrived last week will not be sent home unless they are on a wanted list for criminal charges.
“We must take care of them and ensure their safety,” Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said. “It’s a political and humanitarian issue.”
Kazakhstan, which has a large northern border adjoining Russia, and Georgia, a former Soviet republic, seem to be the two most popular destinations for those crossing by car, bike or on foot from Russia. The total number of people fleeing Russia to these two countries and Finland is estimated at more than 194,000 in less than a week.
Some European countries have closed their doors to Russians seeking asylum to escape conscription; others have expressed their willingness to welcome them.
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, told his followers that dying while performing military duty “erases all sins”. Kirill preached support for mobilization in Russia, saying it would help “reconcile” Ukraine and Russia. Kirill is a Putin supporter who supported the war.
In May, Pope Francis urged Kirill not to justify the invasion. “The patriarch cannot turn into Putin’s altar boy,” Francis said.
Contribute: The Associated Press