The Kremlin paved the way Tuesday to annex more of Ukraine and escalate the war by claiming that residents of a large swath overwhelmingly supported joining with Russia in stage-managed referendums the U.S. and its Western allies have dismissed as illegitimate.
Pro-Moscow officials said all four occupied regions of Ukraine voted to join Russia. According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk. Possibly explaining the lower favorable vote in Kherson is that Russian authorities there have faced a strong Ukrainian underground resistance movement whose members have killed Moscow-appointed officials and threatened those who considered voting.
In a remark that appeared to rule out negotiations, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy told the U.N. Security Council by video from Kyiv that Russia’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territory will mean “there is nothing to talk about with this president of Russia.”
He added that “any annexation in the modern world is a crime, a crime against all states that consider the inviolability of border to be vital for themselves.”