The so-called referendums that have been going on for the past five days in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine have come to an end. With all votes reportedly counted, the results show exactly the kind of majority in favor of joining Russia that has prompted many to consider the referendums a “sham” that violated international law.
The head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said on his Telegram channel that 99.23% of votes cast were for "joining the Donetsk People's Republic to the Russian Federation.” Elena Kravchenko, the head of the election commission of the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), said 98.42% favored annexation by Moscow. In Kherson, 87.05% were in favor of the motion; and in Zaporizhzhya, the head of the election commission said the final tally was 93.11% voting to join Russia.
James Kariuki, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, has urged the United Nations to reject the results of the referendums in Ukraine. Speaking during a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the war, Kariuki called the votes "an egregious violation" of the principles of the UN Charter.
"We’ve all seen images of soldiers with automatic rifles accompanying the ballots as they move from door to door, forcing Ukrainians to take part. Any referenda held under these conditions, at the barrel of a gun, can never be remotely close to free or fair.”
Meanwhile Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Moscow plans to annex the regions in Ukraine and will force people to join the Russian military, saying “either you are killed, or you kill.” UK Defense Ministry sources report that Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to announce the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions during a Friday speech to both houses of the Russian Parliament.
What You Need To Know About Ukrainian Territories Set To Be Annexed By Russia
Officials count votes at a polling station in Donetsk during a referendum on the accession of the Donetsk People's Republic to Russia
The four regions where the referendums took place, which currently account for 15% of Ukrainian territory, each hold different stakes with their own unique history — and their annexation by Russia could have major consequences. French daily Les Echos broke down the situation region by region:
- Luhansk and Donetsk: Located at the Russian border, the self-proclaimed People's Republics of the Donbas count more than six million people. Mostly Russian-speaking, the separatist territories are Ukraine's main mining and metallurgical regions, with the most occupied by Russia since the beginning of the war.
- Zaporizhzhia: On the Black Sea, this territory includes Ukraine's biggest nuclear plant. Recurrent shelling and fighting in the region have raised fear of a nuclear accident. Russia occupies 63% of Zaporizhzhia, including Energodar, the city where the plant is located - the annexation would give Russia full control of the plant.
- Kherson: In Ukraine’s deep south, bordering Crimea, Kherson has been occupied by Russia since the beginning of the war. It is a major agricultural region, and the annexation would allow Russia to form a territorial group with all the currently occupied regions. Kherson has been the scene of Ukraine's latest and rather successful counteroffensive.
Pope Francis: Ukraine War Is “Imperialisms In Conflict,” Not A Cowboy Movie Of Good Guys And Bad GuysFile:Pope Francis in Prato (87).JPG - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org
Pope Francis has criticized “simplistic” thinking about the war in Ukraine, saying that it is an error to think that the conflict is “between Russia and Ukraine and that's it. No: it is a world war.”
Quoted in the current edition of Jesuit magazine, La Civiltà Cattolica, due to be published Thursday, the Pope made the remarks in an encounter earlier this month with priests in Kazakhstan.
Ukrainians have criticized the Pope for not condemning Russia and President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.
Italian daily La Stampa reports that during the Sep. 15 meeting, Pope Francis told the 19 Jesuit priests gathered from Russia and elsewhere around the region that it’s a mistake to consider that the war is some "cowboy movie where there are good guys and bad guys."
While the Pope emphasized that "the victim is Ukraine,” he said it is important “to investigate the dynamics” that caused the war. According to Francis, there are international factors “that have contributed to provoking the war. One cannot be simplistic in thinking about what caused it.”
He went on to blame “imperialisms in conflict,” saying that the when they "feel threatened and in decline, the imperialisms react thinking that the solution is to wage a war … and also to sell and test weapons.”
Sabotage To Blame In Nord Stream Leaks, EU Says
Nord Stream Pipeline Leaking Into Baltic Sea
European Union officials said Wednesday that leaks reported in the two major gas pipelines from Russia to Europe were caused by sabotage.
Although not directly blaming Russia, President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said on Twitter, "Nord Stream sabotage appears to be an attempt to further destabilize energy supply to [the] EU." European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen added that deliberate disruption to the pipelines would result in the "strongest possible response.”
Late on Tuesday, a day after the leaks were reported, Swedish officials said two unexplained tremors had been detected near the pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and 2, which run under the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Sweden.
Although the cause of the leaks is still unclear, representatives from both Russian and Ukraine are blaming each other. A Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that the possibility of a deliberate attack could not be ruled out, while Ukraine's presidential adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak said the leak was "nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU".
The pipelines, which were designed to deliver Russia’s natural gas to Germany, have been at the core of the energy war between the West and Moscow since the beginning of the war. Energy prices are rising as Russia threatens to cut off supplies to Europe.
The Danish energy minister, Dan Jorgensen, said the leaks were likely to last for at least a week, until the gas escaping from the pipes runs out, after which an investigation would begin.
Ekstra Bladet (Denmark) front page
Report: Russia’s New “Prison Recruits” Of Released Convicts Already Being Deployed
Butyrka prison in Moscowcommons.wikimedia.org
Ukraine’s military says that the first groups of Russian convicts who agreed to sign a military contract to get out of prison have started arriving at the front line.
According to a statement from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the questionable recruits are replenishing the thinned ranks in the southern Kherson region.
"There was no training with them at all. Also, the military-political leadership of the Russian Federation, simultaneously with partial mobilization, continues the measures of the so-called "self-mobilization,” Kyiv’s military said in the statement.According to information received by the Russian media directly from mobilized men, they are also being sent to the Donetsk region without training. The first units of such soldiers should arrive at the front today.
As Exodus Continues, Latvia Declares State Of Emergency At Russian Border
Vehicles queue by the Burachki checkpoint on the Russian-Latvian border
In response to the mass flight of Russians avoiding conscription, Latvia has imposed a state of emergency in areas bordering Russia. A special regime is at airports, railway stations, and ports. According to the Latvian government, only one border crossing has been completely closed, Novaya Gazeta reports.
Russians are fleeing to all neighboring countries, with a 20-kilometer-long queue forming at border checkpoints with Georgia, and tens of thousands going to Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Russia has not yet closed its borders, but checkpoints have begun to receive lists of men who have been conscripted.
Over the past week, an estimated 66,000 Russian citizens entered Europe Union countries— a 30% jump compared to the previous week. According to the EU border agency Frontex, most of them arrived through Finland and Estonia."
Russian-language media Vazhnye Istorii spoke to several of the military-age men who have fled in the wake of the national mobilization. Read the English edition here: Why I Fled: Meet The Russian Men Choosing Exile Over Putin's War
U.S. Stepping Up Intel Surveillance After Putin’s Nuclear Threats
Russian President Vladimir Putin
In light of recent threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S. and its allied intelligence agencies have augmented surveillance efforts to detect any Russian military moves or communication signaling that the Kremlin may be preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Politico reports.
Unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles, which give off signals when put on alert or used in training exercises, Russian aircraft, which can deliver smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, are designed for more targeted use on the battlefield and can remain mostly undetected. Politico reports that this poses a challenge for U.S. intelligence agencies tracking the potential risk, which have begun incorporating tactics such as tapping into additional intelligence assets and relying more heavily on Earth-imaging satellites to analyze possible Russian units in position to receive a nuclear order.
Meloni Vows Continued Italian Support For Kyiv
Dear @ZelenskyyUa, you know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of freedom of Ukrainian people. Stay strong and keep your faith steadfast! 🇮🇹🇺🇦— Giorgia Meloni 🇮🇹 ن (@GiorgiaMeloni) September 27, 2022
Giorgia Meloni, poised to become Italy’s next prime minister after her national election victory, has vowed that she will continue the current policy of supporting Ukraine in defending itself from Russia’s invasion.
After her Brothers of Italy outpaced all other Italian parties in Sunday’s vote, Meloni responded to a tweet of congratulations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
“Dear Zelensky, you know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of freedom of Ukrainian people. Stay strong and keep your faith steadfast!”
Meloni’s winning right-wing coalition includes allies like former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who have pro-Russian views. Still, Meloni has consistently supported the policy of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi to support Kyiv since the Feb 24 invasion.