Russia is poised to annex four regions in Ukraine after a sham referendum vote held by allies in the Russian-held region, Reuters reports.
Russian-backed leaders in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson formally asked the Kremlin to incorporate them into Russia after holding the sham votes. The territories make up around 15% of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could announce the annexation within days after he endorsed the referendums earlier this month.
"The results are clear. Welcome home, to Russia!" wrote Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.
Residents who fled the region reported being forced to vote in the street at gunpoint.
The Ukrainian government on Wednesday called the referendums a “propaganda show.”
“The Russian Federation organized a propaganda show,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to defend the citizens of the regions.
EU vows response:
The European Union said it would impose sanctions on the organizers of the “illegal, illegitimate referendums.”
"There would be consequences for all people who participate in the illegal, illegitimate referendums," Peter Stano, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, told reporters.
The United Kingdom also announced sanctions in response to a “clear violation of international law.”