Russian Leaders Welcome Referendum Outcome as Ukraine Battle Deepens

MOSCOW—Russian leaders have been fast to welcome the end result of the referendums that pave the best way for occupied areas of Ukraine to be integrated within the Russian Federation, escalating the battle with Kyiv and Western governments, which have dismissed the votes as a sham.

Vyacheslav Volodin,

speaker of the State Duma, wrote on Telegram Wednesday that the end result would “save tens of millions of individuals from genocide,” after outcomes launched Tuesday night claimed to point out that Russian-controlled Luhansk and areas of Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia overwhelmingly supported turning into a part of Russia.

In February, Russian President

Vladimir Putin

had accused the Ukrainian authorities of discrimination and violence in opposition to Russian audio system as a justification for launching an invasion of Ukraine, a cost Kyiv rejected as false.

“The outcomes are clear,”

Dmitry Medvedev,

the previous president and prime minister, now the deputy chairman of the Russian Safety Council, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday evening. “Welcome residence to Russia!”

Ukraine’s President

Volodymr Zelensky

instructed the U.N. Safety Council by video from Kyiv on Tuesday that “any annexation within the trendy world is a criminal offense, a criminal offense in opposition to all states that think about the inviolability of borders to be important for themselves.”

A person casting his poll in the course of the referendum on becoming a member of Russia in Luhansk, Ukraine, on Tuesday.


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The Moscow-installed leaders of all 4 territories confirmed their want Wednesday that the areas change into a part of Russia. The Kremlin has already acknowledged the self-proclaimed independence of Donetsk and Luhansk. The professional-Russian civil-military administrations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the place they management solely the southern and central areas of every, have been anticipated to declare the area’s independence inside administrative boundaries. Zaporizhzhia’s capital remains to be managed by Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov instructed reporters this week that Russian authorities are prepared to include the brand new areas into Russia. Professional-Kremlin analysts mentioned the referendums have been a obligatory step towards that goal, regardless of the scorn that Western leaders have proven towards a voting course of undermined by allegations of coercion and threats of violence.

“[The results] are vital as a result of they supply a political foundation for making selections on the incorporation of those areas into Russia,” mentioned Sergei Markov, director of the pro-Kremlin Institute for Political Research in Moscow.

The trail to turning into a part of Russia will seemingly observe the playbook used for Crimea, which Russia annexed after seizing it from Ukraine in 2014, following a referendum during which 97% voters favored becoming a member of Russia, based on official outcomes. The peninsula was integrated into Russia lower than per week after the referendum that accredited it, although many of the world’s nations don’t acknowledge Crimea as being a part of Russia.

A poll marked as ‘Sure’ in the course of the referendum to hitch Russia in Luhansk, Ukraine, on Tuesday.


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In accordance with Russian regulation, Mr. Putin should first signal a treaty with the territories in search of to hitch Russia, after which the agreements can be despatched to the nation’s Constitutional Courtroom to make sure they adjust to Russian regulation. If the court docket finds no violations, Mr. Putin would ship the treaty to the State Duma for a vote.

If it passes, then the Federation Council should approve the laws. Mr. Putin would then formally declare the Ukrainian areas to be a part of Russia. This course of for annexation might begin as quickly as this week, analysts have mentioned, although the Kremlin hasn’t confirmed any dates.

Pavel Salin, a political analyst primarily based in Moscow, mentioned that whereas the annexation is pending, Mr. Putin has offered the West with a chance to enter a dialogue with Russia about de-escalating its help for Ukraine.

“He created this new scenario so as to induce the Anglo-Saxon bloc to restart contacts,” Mr. Salin mentioned, referring to Kyiv’s backers, together with the U.S. and the U.Okay.

Konstantin Ivashchenko, left, the appointed pro-Russian mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine, visiting a polling station as individuals voted within the referendum on Tuesday.


stringer/Agence France-Presse/Getty Pictures

Annexation would result in the complete Russianization of the Ukrainian territories captured by Moscow, analysts say. Some areas had began distributing Russian passports earlier than the referendums. Faculties have been issued Russian curricula. The hryvnia, Ukraine’s forex, would get replaced by the Russian ruble, analysts say. The pinnacle of Zaporizhzhia mentioned Tuesday the hryvnia can be gone from his area by the tip of the yr.

“The scenario will change basically just for the residents of those areas,” Mr. Markov mentioned. “Most significantly, these individuals may have a full assure that Russia won’t change them for one thing within the occasion of peace negotiations,” he mentioned.

After staging referendums that have been broadly criticized as a sham, Russia is shifting to annex roughly 15% of Ukraine’s territory. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains how the method unfolded, and why the tried land-grab is essential to Vladimir Putin’s warfare technique. Illustration: Elizabeth Smelov

The annexation of the territories would additionally increase Russia’s inhabitants by round 5 million to 6 million. The nation’s declining numbers have been a priority for Mr. Putin, who has lately handed legal guidelines providing monetary compensation for ladies to have extra youngsters.

Russia might want to discover cash in its finances to help these areas. On Wednesday, Mr. Peskov performed down queries over whether or not the nation would manage to pay for. Moscow nonetheless covers two-thirds of Crimea’s finances, based on Russian-installed officers in Crimea.

The elevated inhabitants additionally would offer a pool from which to attract extra troops to battle for Russia in Ukraine, analysts mentioned. Final week, Mr. Putin warned that Moscow may use nuclear weapons if the West assaults Russian territory. He additionally ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to battle in Ukraine, triggering an exodus from the nation of males attempting to flee being mobilized.

Write to Ann M. Simmons at

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