- Russia is holding sham referendums on getting occupied Ukraine to become part of Russia.
- Putin could formally annex the regions on Friday, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.
- Soldiers are threatening to shoot Ukrainians who don’t take part, The Telegraph reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could announce on Friday his country is formally annexing parts of Ukraine that its forces have been occupying, the UK Ministry of Defense warned on Tuesday.
Russia is holding referendums on the eastern Ukrainian regions joining Russia, in votes that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned last week as a “sham” and “further escalation in Putin’s war.” Reuters notes the regions make up 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
Voting in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia – which make up 15% of Ukraine’s territory according to Reuters – is due to end on Tuesday. Many countries, including Russia’s ally Kazakhstan, have announced they will not recognize the outcome.
As part of of ongoing updates on the war in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that Putin may use his Friday address to parliament to announce the regions are being annexed.
“There is a realistic possibility that Putin will use his address to formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation,” the ministry said.
It said that the annexation could be an attempt to provide “a vindication” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces in recent weeks.
“Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict,” the ministry said.
But it added: “This aspiration will likely be undermined by the increasing domestic awareness of Russia’s recent battlefield sets-backs and significant unease about the partial mobilisation announced last week.”
The Telegraph reported that armed soldiers were going door-to-door to collect votes and that they threatened to shoot Ukrainians who don’t take part in the referendums.
Ukraine’s security service said pro-Russian officials were trying to get children as young as 13 to vote, so turnout could look higher.
Russia also used a referendum after it seized Crimea from Ukraine and annexed it in 2014.
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