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Moscow: Partial 'voting results' show up to 98% want to join Russia

Moscow unveils partial ‘voting results’ from its sham referendums in invaded Ukrainian regions claiming to show up to 98% favour becoming part of Russia

  • Early results from Moscow’s sham referendums show support for annexation 
  • Hastily arranged votes took place Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson 
  • Moscow claimed ludicrous majorities of 98% in Zaporizhzhia and Donbas
  • Kyiv has dismissed the charade and is determined to keep fighting as normal
  • Results come amid fears Putin plans to use vote as pretext for nuclear weapons 

First partial voting results in Moscow’s sham referendums in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine unsurprisingly came out in favour of annexation by Russia, Russian state news said on Tuesday.

Hastily arranged votes had taken place over five days in the four areas – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – that make up about 15 per cent of Ukrainian territory. 

Russian-installed officials accompanied by machinegun-toting henchmen took ballot boxes from house to house in what Ukraine and the West said was an illegitimate, coercive exercise designed to create a legal pretext for Russia to annex the four regions. 

President Vladimir Putin could then portray any Ukrainian attempt to recapture them as an attack on Russia itself. He said last week he was willing to use nuclear weapons to defend the ‘territorial integrity’ of Russia. 

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO General Secretary, condemned the ‘sham referenda’ on Twitter, lambasting them as having ‘no legitimacy’ and being a ‘blatant violation of international law.’

‘Just spoke with President Zelensky and made clear that NATO allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and right to self-defence,’ he wrote. 

Officials in Kyiv hit back against the transparent land grab by declaring the votes ‘will not have any influence’ on battlefield, where Ukrainian forces are in ascendancy.  

A man in military fatigues casts his ballot at a polling station during a referendum on the joining of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) to Russia, in Donetsk, which Russian state media say has voted by 98 per cent to join Russia with 14 per cent of the vote counted

A referendum official walks past a gun-toting militiaman in Donetsk as the hurried votes were carried out under the eyes of armed men

Vladimir Putin announced the plan to hold snap votes in the regions of Ukraine that his armed forced had invaded and managed to occupy last week

‘The main thing is that these actions, this decision by Putin, will not have any influence on the politics, diplomacy and actions of Ukraine on the battlefield,’ Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said during a press conference with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna. 

Russian state news agency RIA said the initial counts showed majorities ranging from 96.97 per cent in the Kherson region, based on 14 per cent of votes counted, to 98.19 per cent in Zaporizhzhia, based on 18 per cent of the count.

The majorities in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics were just under 98 per cent, with 14 per cent and 13 per cent respectively of votes tallied.  

Ukraine has repeatedly warned that Russian annexation of additional territories would destroy any chance of peace talks, seven months after Moscow launched its invasion of the country.

Russia says it is up to the people of the four regions to decide for themselves if they want to come under Moscow’s rule. 

In the run-up to the votes, Russia acted to ‘Russify’ the occupied territories, including by issuing people with Russian passports and rewriting school curriculums.

Valentina Matviyenko, head of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said that if the referendum results were favourable, it could consider the incorporation of the four regions on October 4. 

A man holds his ballot as he leaves a voting booth at a polling station during a referendum in Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, as the charade of a free and fair vote was maintained

The majorities in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics were just under 98 per cent, with 14 per cent and 13 per cent respectively of votes tallied

Votes held in four areas currently under Russian control – Donetsk and Luhansk, which together make up the Donbas, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, are set to conclude today

The foreign ministers of France and Ukraine slammed the ‘mock referendums’ in the occupied territories and Moscow’s escalating threats of a nuclear war.

Catherine Colonna of France and Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine spoke at a joint news conference in Kyiv.

Russia and its ‘unnecessary, illegal, unjust war, threatens the very foundations of the rules-based international order,’ Colonna said. 

‘France has been at your side since the start of the Russian aggression and will remain so until Ukraine recovers its full sovereignty and territorial integrity.’

Kuleba said the Russian votes about the separation from Ukraine and joining Russia present a ‘performance which won’t have any consequences and influence on the politics and diplomacy.’

He added that the voting shows Russia doesn’t wish a peaceful outcome: ‘Russia doesn’t want any peace talks; please, stop playing this game.’

Colonna also announced the arrival of a new mission of French experts to assist in investigations in Ukraine of atrocities. Kuleba said the talks also focused on the transfer from France of more CAESAR artillery systems to Ukraine.

The British Ministry of Defence assessed as a ‘realistic possibility’ that Putin might be planning to announce the annexation of the occupied territories this Friday when he addresses both chambers of the Russian Duma. 

The hasty move to incorporate Ukrainian territory into Russia proper gives rise to the fear that Putin will claim integral Russian land is under threat if and when Ukraine moves to liberate it, justifying the use of nuclear weapons in ‘self-defence’

Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (right, with Putin, left) has reiterated Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons, saying it is ‘certainly not a bluff’

The hasty move to incorporate Ukrainian territory into Russia proper gives rise to the fear that Putin will claim integral Russian land is under threat if and when Ukraine moves to liberate it, justifying the use of nuclear weapons according to Russia’s nuclear doctrine. 

And one of Vladimir Putin’s attack dogs has been rattling the nuclear sabre once again as he declared that his master was not bluffing in his threats against the West.

Dmitri Medvedev, a former Russian president, said in a now customary rant on the Telegram messaging app that Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons ‘if the use of conventional weapons threatens the very existence of our state.’

‘And it is certainly not a bluff,’ he added. 

The latest threat of nuclear annihilation follows on from Putin’s bluster during a televised address broadcast last week when he announced a partial mobilisation of Russian men. 

During the speech, he raised the spectre of a nuclear strike if he deemed the ‘territorial integrity’ of Russia to be under threat. 

The Kremlin is clearly fearful of a well-train and battle-hardened Ukrainian army, fresh with modern Western weapons, moving to liberate the stolen territories and sweeping the Russian army out of its homeland. 

A hospitalised man casts his ballot into a mobile ballot box as members of an electoral commission visit patients of a hospital

People line up to vote in a referendum in Luhansk, Luhansk People’s Republic controlled by Russia-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 24, 2022

Medvedev was dismissive of Western warnings of ‘catastrophic consequences for Russia’ if they used nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine and indicated he thought they were bluffs. 

‘I believe that NATO will not directly intervene in the conflict even in this situation. After all, the security of Washington, London, and Brussels is much more important for the North Atlantic Alliance than the fate of the perishing Ukraine, which no one needs, even if it is abundantly supplied with various weapons,’ he wrote.

‘Biden and Truss, spraying Atlantic saliva, demand that Russia remove its hand from its ”nuclear button.” 

‘Together, they constantly threaten us with ”terrifying” consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons. 

‘And the London aunt [Truss], young in mind, is completely ready to immediately begin an exchange of nuclear strikes with our country.’ 

The moves to mobilise the Russian population and rush through sham referendums in the occupied regions are seen as desperate ploys by analysts, prompted by public misgivings from Putin’s key allies of India, China and Turkey at a summit two weeks ago. 

The announcement of the partial mobilisation has seen thousands of men called up to fight in the Russian army, along with chaotic scenes of Russians streaming out of the country, protests in the regions and unruly drinking and brawling by fresh conscripts. 

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