Russia will begin plans on Friday to annex about 15% of Ukraine’s territory through a referendum in four regions controlled by Russian forces, in what the West says is a gross violation of international law that significantly escalates the war.
After nearly seven months of war, and a critical battleground defeat in northeastern Ukraine earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin has clearly backed the referendum as Russian-controlled regions lined up to seek a quick vote to join Russia.
The self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Putin recognized as independent just before the invasion, and the Russian-installed administrations in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions will vote.
Voting, which the West and Ukraine say is a sham, is due to start on Friday and end on Tuesday, with results expected soon after.
Russia will officially annex the territories after the results.
“The Kremlin is organizing a fake referendum to annex parts of Ukraine,” US President Joe Biden told the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
“Ukraine has the same rights that every sovereign nation has. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine,” said Biden, who cast the war as part of a global race between democracy and dictatorship.
Ukraine, whose post-Soviet border is recognized by Russia under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, has said it will never accept Russian control of any of its territory and will fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled.
Putin, Russia’s supreme leader since 1999, said Russia would never abandon territories under its control and those he wanted to secede from Kiev.
He casts the war as a war to save Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine from persecution and as a way to thwart what he says is a Western conspiracy to destroy Russia. Ukraine denies Russian speakers have been persecuted.
In a direct nuclear warning to the West, Putin said he would defend Russian territory — and the areas of Ukraine that Moscow will soon consider Russian territory — by all means at his disposal.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and appeared on a syndicated feed.)