Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

Russian state media say election commissions in four occupied regions of Ukraine have secured majorities in favor of joining the Russian Federation, following referenda described as a ‘sham’ by Western and Kyiv governments .

The so-called referendums – held on the spur of the moment by pro-Russian authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine – are against international law and have been widely condemned by Western governments. They have not been observed by independent observers.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said the commissions published the results of referendums in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. He did not say whether these were the final results.

The referendum plans were suddenly announced a week ago by Russian-backed local governments and immediately welcomed in Moscow.

Ukrainian officials say turnout was extremely low and pro-Russian voters were bused in from Crimea.

“The results are obvious. Welcome home to Russia! said Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who is now deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council, responding to reports from state media.

Officials predict that Russia could now move quickly to annex the four areas, potentially within days. Such a move could provide Moscow with a pretext to step up its faltering war, which has seen Kyiv regain thousands of square kilometers of territory this month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously said that if the regions announced majorities in favor of joining Russia, the ratification process would be fast and they could become part of the Russian Federation « very soon ». .

Asked if this would mean that any attempt by Ukraine to regain the territories would be considered an attack on Russian territory, Peskov replied: « Of course. »

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