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Leaders slam Moscow’s ‘sham referendums’ to annex parts of Ukraine

Leaders around the world slammed plans by Moscow-backed separatists in occupied areas of Ukraine to conduct referendums on joining Russia as soon as this week, saying the move would never be recognized.

Washington, 20 September 2022 (dpa/MIA) – Leaders around the world slammed plans by Moscow-backed separatists in occupied areas of Ukraine to conduct referendums on joining Russia as soon as this week, saying the move would never be recognized.

Moscow-backed separatists said on Tuesday that referendums would be staged in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya later this month.

“The United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to purportedly annex any parts of Ukraine. And we will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine. We reject Russia’s actions unequivocally,” said Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor.

He called the planned polls “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” saying it was clear they would be manipulated.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg similarly called the planned polls “sham referendums” that are a “blatant violation of international law.”

The plans are a “further escalation in Putin’s war,” Stoltenberg said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg called on the international community to condemn the move and step up support for Ukraine as a result.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said the votes would not be accepted.

It was “very, very clear that these sham referendums cannot be accepted, that they are not covered by international law and by the understandings that the world community has found,” Scholz said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Russia must withdraw its troops, Scholz said. “Ukraine has every right to defend the integrity and sovereignty of its own country and its own democracy. We support Ukraine in this.”

The separatists have been calling for the polls to be conducted quickly in light of a counteroffensive by Kiev that has seen Ukrainian troops retake territory in the south and east of the country.

Russia similarly annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea Peninsula of Crimea in 2014. Internationally, the vote was never recognized.

Three regions – Luhansk and Donetsk in the east and Kherson in the south – each plan a five-day vote from Friday through September 27, the occupation authorities said.

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