Putin, who has seen his troops beaten back in a Ukrainian counteroffensive, will attend a ceremony on Friday in the Kremlin when four occucpied regions of Ukraine will be officially folded into Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.
“I agree wholeheartedly that the referendums were a sham and that the annexation is completely unjustified and contrary to the international rules-based order,” Anita Anand told reporters during a virtual news conference on Thursday.
“Canada condemns these actions and I personally am disgusted by them as they are reprehensible and a completely unwarranted and illegal intrusion into territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”
An official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in areas under Russian occupation in Ukraine.
Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed Tuesday night that 93 per cent of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87 per cent in the Kherson region, 98 per cent in the Luhansk region and 99 per cent in Donetsk.
The United States and many of its western allies have sharply condemned the votes as “sham” and vowed never to recognize their results. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a call Wednesday that Canada wouldn’t recognize Russia’s declaration and would support Ukraine.
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Ukraine has also called the referendums illegitimate, saying it has every right to retake the territories, a position that has won support from Washington.
Armed troops had gone door to door with election officials to collect ballots during the voting period of Sept. 23 and Sept. 27. The suspiciously high margins in favour were characterized as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership after embarrassing military losses in Ukraine.
After a counteroffensive by Ukraine this month dealt Moscow’s forces heavy setbacks, Russia said it would call up 300,000 troops to join the fight. It also warned it could resort to nuclear weapons.
The Institute for the Study of War, citing Russian reports, said Ukrainian forces have taken more villages around Lyman, a city some 160 kilometres southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The report said Ukrainian forces may soon encircle Lyman entirely in what would be a major blow to Russia.
Russian officials have insinuated that the annexation of the areas of Ukraine could legitimize an escalation in the war, which has ground on since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion. Putin said days before the referendums began that his country was prepared to use “any means” to defend itself.
“Canada will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and our NATO allies in upholding the rules-based internal national order and the sovereignty of states on which that order has been based since the end of the Second World War,” Anand said.
“Ukraine’s territory will always remain Ukraine’s territory.”
— with files from The Associated Press