The proxy Russian authorities in four occupied areas of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – announced on Tuesday their intentions to hold referendums between 23-27 September on joining the Russian Federation, a move that could sharply escalate the war.
Russia president Vladimir Putin postponed a planned address to the Russian nation today to Thursday morning, reported Russian media. The planned speech was going to cover new annexations of Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video address released early on Wednesday, said in relation to the referendums: “Our position does not change according to this noise or any other announcement”. Kyiv said the “sham” referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced. Zelenskiy will speak to the UN general assembly by video-link on Wednesday.
The White House rejected Russia’s plans to hold the referendums, adding that Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in those areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield. Jake Sullivan, president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Several world leaders have said they will not recognise any referendums or new annexations of Ukrainian territory, with French president Emmanuel Macron calling the plan a “parody”.
Any referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian publication Liga.net cited the Ukrainian president’s office spokesman as saying on Tuesday. “Without the referendums, there is still the smallest chance for a diplomatic solution. After the referendums – no,” Liga.net quoted Serhiy Nykyforov as saying.
Putin has condemned what he described as US efforts to preserve its global domination, saying they are doomed to fail. Speaking while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors to Moscow, Putin said: “The objective development toward a multi-polar world faces resistance of those who try to preserve their hegemony in global affairs and control everything – Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”
With Germany’s gas storage facilities now at just over 90% capacity, Robert Habeck, the economy minister, said Germany now stands “a good chance” of getting through the winter. Germany is ahead of its goal to have the subterranean stores 95% full by the start of November.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Tuesday evening that its operations in Donetsk near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka caused Russia to suffer “significant losses”. But Russia shelled those towns and dozens more in north-eastern and southern Ukraine, the general staff said.
US senators on Tuesday proposed that Biden’s administration use secondary sanctions on international banks to strengthen a price cap G7 countries plan to impose on Russian oil. Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and Republican Senator Pat Toomey announced a framework for legislation to impose the secondary sanctions, which would target financial institutions involved in trade finance, insurance, reinsurance and brokerage of Russia oil and petroleum products sold at prices exceeding the cap.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to his report