KYIV, Sept 27 - President Volodymyr Zelensky 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,” The Associated Press reported.
The remarks come as 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.
The preordained outcome sets the stage for a dangerous new phase in Russia’s seven-month war, with the Kremlin threatening to throw more troops into the battle and potentially use nuclear weapons.
The referendums asking residents whether they wanted the four occupied southern and eastern Ukraine regions to be incorporated into Russia began Sept. 23, often with armed officials going door-to-door collecting votes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address Russia’s parliament about the referendums on Friday, and Valentina Matviyenko, who chairs the body’s upper house, said lawmakers could consider annexation legislation on Oct. 4.
Meanwhile, Russia ramped up warnings that it could deploy nuclear weapons to defend its territory, including newly acquired land, and continued mobilizing more than a quarter-million additional troops to deploy to a front line of more than 1,000 kms (more than 620 miles).
After the balloting, “the situation will radically change from the legal viewpoint, from the point of view of international law, with all the corresponding consequences for protection of those areas and ensuring their security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.
Many Western leaders have called the referendum a sham, and the U.N. Security Council met Tuesday in New York to discuss the voting, with the U.S. and Albania planning to introduce a resolution that says the results will never be accepted and that the four regions remain part of Ukraine. Russia is certain to veto the resolution.
The balloting and a call-up of Russian military reservists that Putin ordered last Wednesday are aimed at buttressing Moscow’s exposed military and political positions.
The referendums follow a familiar Kremlin playbook for territorial expansion and more aggressive military action. In 2014, Russian authorities held a similar referendum on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, under the close watch of Russian troops. Based on the voting, Russia annexed Crimea. Putin cited the defense of Russians living in Ukraine’s eastern regions, their supposed desires to join with Russia, and an existential security threat to Russia as a pretext for his Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. (ap/ez)