Ukraine’s Western allies condemn Russian referendum plans for occupied regions

Kyiv’s Western allies were swift to condemn the referendums announced by Russia in four regions of Ukraine. Western allies German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the referendums “sham” votes, while French President Emmanuel Macron described them as a “travesty”. The United States said they were “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that Washington would never recognise Russian claims to annexed Ukrainian territory.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Western allies for speaking up on the referendums.

“I thank all the friends and partners of Ukraine for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia’s intentions to organise yet more pseudo-referendums,” he said in his daily address.

Also Read | As Russian losses mount in Ukraine, so does criticism back home

Zelensky, however, played down the entire matter. “Today there was pretty big news from Russia. But what actually happened? Have we heard anything we didn’t hear before?” he said.

“Our position does not change according to this noise or any other announcement. Let’s preserve our unity, protect Ukraine, liberate our land and not show any weakness.”

Russia plans to hold referendums in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions in the coming days, a move that is being seen as a challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the war. 

In the apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian figures announced referendums for September 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory.

The planned annexation referendums come as Ukrainian forces have made notable gains in the northeastern Kharkiv region and in the east.

The votes follow the model of the 2014 referendum by which Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula in southern Ukraine, which Kyiv and the West refused to recognise.

(With inputs from agencies)