Massive criticism of Russia's sham referendums in eastern Ukraine

Ukraine war in the Donetsk region

Ukraine, Druzhkivka: A woman rides a bicycle past a badly damaged school destroyed after a Russian attack in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.

(Photo: dpa)

Kyiv, Moscow Russia is heading towards bogus referendums on the annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territories, despite massive international criticism. Key Kremlin propagandists suggested that President Wladimir Putin will comment on this. On Tuesday evening, a television speech by Putin announced by several Russian media did not materialize.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacted calmly to the announcement of referendums in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Cherson and Zaporizhia regions. There's nothing new about that.

"Our position does not change with noise or any announcements," he said in his video address on Tuesday. "We defend them Ukrainewe are liberating our country, and most importantly, we are not showing any weakness.”

Zelenskiy will have the opportunity to clarify Ukraine's position in the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. He is connected there by video, Putin is represented in New York by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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The escalation sought by Moscow in the war of aggression, which has been going on for almost seven months, is overshadowing the UN general debate, in which US President Joe Biden should speak. For Ukraine, Wednesday marks the 210th day of war since the start of the February 24 Russian invasion.

Ukraine receives solidarity addresses from many Western partners

Zelensky thanked the unanimous condemnation of the Russian plans by many countries and organizations. "We have the full support of our partners," he said in Kyiv. Among others, Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized Moscow's initiative. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the voting illegal and a violation of international law.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock

USA, New York: The Green Foreign Minister follows Chancellor Scholz's speech to the delegates in the general debate at the 77th UN General Assembly.

(Photo: dpa)

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the announced votes as a mockery of Ukraine and the United Nations. "With all caution, with all the responsibility that we have, we must not let ourselves be fooled by this renewed provocation, but we must now continue to support Ukraine with full responsibility for peace in Europe," said the Greens politician the ARD "Daily Topics". Weapons deliveries should continue "because it saves lives".

Occupied territories ask Putin for help

The Moscow-backed separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions captured in the war, are planning referendums from September 23-27. They announced this on Tuesday. The simultaneous sham referendums without Ukraine's consent and without any control result in a quick union with Russia.

They are seen as Moscow's reaction to the successful Ukrainian counter-offensive in the east. In 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and tried to underpin this with an internationally unrecognized referendum.

Russian propaganda in Luhansk

With the sham referendum, Russia underpins its intention to incorporate areas of Ukraine.

(Photo: Reuters)

As if in a script for Putin's appearance, the heads of administration in Donetsk and Cherson addressed the President in the Kremlin directly on Tuesday. They asked him to support joining Russia. "This event will restore historical justice," said Donetsk separatist leader Denis Puschilin.

It is difficult to say how many people are in the parts of Ukraine controlled by Moscow. The population there has been severely decimated since February through death, flight or deportation to Russia. According to estimates, Moscow still occupies more than a sixth of Ukraine's territory, including Crimea, despite the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

This is how the Handelsblatt reports on the Ukraine war and the consequences:

An annexation of the areas would mean for Moscow that it could present the possible recapture by Ukraine as an attack on its own territory. This would also make it easier to announce partial or general mobilization in Russia. Quickly crammed through law changes in the Russian parliament on Tuesday seem to point in this direction. However, Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Kartapalov denied that general mobilization was planned.

The media group RBK and the state broadcaster RT announced a speech by Putin for Tuesday evening, which was not given. After several hours of waiting, RT boss Margarita Simonyan wrote on Telegram "Go to sleep!". TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov wrote simply: "Tomorrow".

United States want to help solve war crimes

The US wants to give Ukraine more help in solving Russian war crimes. US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukraine's Attorney General Andriy Kostin signed a memorandum of understanding in Washington on Tuesday.

Andriy Kostin (left) and Merrick Garland

The Attorney General of Ukraine (left) and the US Attorney General sign a memorandum of understanding during a ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington.

(Photo: dpa)

The US wanted to help Kyiv "identify, arrest and prosecute people involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," Garland said. It is about giving the victims a certain degree of justice, Kostin emphasized.

As in the spring near the capital Kyiv, the Ukrainian authorities have now come across mass graves after the liberation of the Kharkiv region. According to Ukrainian sources, many of the bodies show signs of a violent death, which raises the suspicion of Russian war crimes.

That will be important on Wednesday

Ukrainian President Zelensky will not only address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. He also addresses representatives of the US defense industry, also via video link. The United States is Ukraine's most important arms supplier. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is also scheduled to speak at the NDIA meeting.

More: Don't miss any development - everything new in our news blog about the Ukraine war

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