Vladimir Putin ‘set to declare annexations’ in Ukraine as ‘sham’ referendum results are announced

Russian President Vladimir Putin  (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AP)

Vladimir Putin could be set to announce the annexation of four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine later this week, the MoD has warned.

Hastily arranged votes had taken place over five days in the four areas - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - that make up about 15% of Ukrainian territory.

Russian-installed officials took ballot boxes from house to house in what Ukraine and the West said were “sham” referendums to create a legal pretext for Russia to annex the regions.

First partial voting results from the areas on Tuesday showed majorities of more than 96 per cent in favour of becoming part of Russia.

In an intelligence update on Tuesday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said it believes president Putin is poised to announce the annexation of these areas on Friday.

“President Putin is scheduled to address both houses of the Russian Parliament on Friday, September 30,” said the MoD statement.

“There is a realistic possibility that Putin will use his address to formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. The referendums currently underway within these territories are scheduled to conclude on September 27.

“Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict.

“This aspiration will likely be undermined by the increasing domestic awareness of Russia’s recent battlefield set-backs and significant unease about the partial mobilisation announced last week.”

It comes after the Kremlin last week announced plans to call up 300,000 Russian reservists, in an attempt to regain ground in the face of a counter-attack by Ukraine’s forces.

The mobilisation of Russian troops has prompted an exodus of men desperate to avoid being sent to Ukraine, with miles-long queues of vehicles seen at Russia’s border as people attempt to flee the country.

The West fears annexation could could lead to a claim by Russia that its territory is coming under attack from Western weapons supplied to Ukraine which could escalate the war further.