Russia Readying to Absorb Ukrainian Territory After Referendums Conclude

Russian-backed authorities in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine have reported that a huge majority of voters favor joining Russia as referendums concluded on Tuesday.

Referendums on joining Russia were held in the breakaway Donbas republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. According to Russian-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported joining Russia, 87% did in Kherson, 98% in Luhansk, and more than 99% in Donetsk.

The referendums have been denounced as “shams” by the West and the US, and NATO have said they will not recognize the territories as Russian. But Russian officials have made clear that they will consider the territories part of Russia and treat attacks on the areas as such.

Russian lawmakers have said they plan to move quickly to take steps to annex the Ukrainian territories once the results of the referendums are clear. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address Russia’s parliament on the referendums and annexation plans on Friday.