With the so-called secession referendums in four occupied Ukrainian regions, which make up about 15 percent of Ukraine’s landmass, being almost over, US officials anticipate Russia could move quickly to annex the areas, potentially within days.
The votes on whether to join Russia are being held in Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia.
A day before voting ended, Russian media announced that “referendums” are “valid”, claiming the turnout had already passed 50% by early Tuesday – above 90% in rebel-held Luhansk- although analysts have called those turnout data flagrantly falsified.
The results of the Russian-organized voting, in which Moscow insists voting is voluntary and the polls are fair, are expected to be inevitably in favor of annexation and should be announced as early as Tuesday evening.
The US has pledged not to recognize the results.
According to British intelligence, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address parliament on Friday to declare the annexation of four occupied Ukrainian regions.
The Kremlin warned that if the regions are annexed by Moscow, the legal situation will radically change from the point of view of international law and there will also be consequences for security in these territories.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Tuesday that following the “referendum” on Kherson’s accession to the Russian Federation held by separatist authorities, the occupied area has been completely closed for entry and exit.
According to the deputy head of the Russian-backed administration in Kherson, there was enough of a margin to approve the vote which would see controlled areas secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
Ukraine’s National Resistance Center, a unit of the Defense Ministry, claimed that civilians have also experienced difficulties in traveling in and out of the occupied part of the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region while traveling is nearly impossible for men ages 18 to 35 since Kremlin announced the partial mobilization effort to conscript some 300,000 soldiers for Russia’s invasion.