Occupied Ukrainian regions push votes to join Russia in wake of counteroffensives

Kremlin-controlled areas of southern and eastern Ukraine announced Tuesday they would stage votes on formally joining Russia in the wake of Kyiv's counteroffensives.

Kremlin-controlled areas of southern and eastern Ukraine announced Tuesday they would stage votes this week on formally joining Russia, moves that were cheered in Moscow and dismissed by Kyiv as a desperate attempt to stem the tide of a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops.

President Vladimir Putin meanwhile urged defense industry chiefs to boost military production and Russia's parliament approved a bill to toughen punishments for a host of crimes, including desertion, if they are committed during periods of mobilization or martial law.

The sudden flurry of activity signaled that the Kremlin could be preparing to dramatically intensify its approach to a conflict that has dragged on for nearly seven months and recently tilted away from its forces. Its public backers delighted in the prospect of an “all-out war” and a new confrontation with the West, which has warned holding “sham” votes in those areas would represent an illegal escalation.

Can Ukraine’s recent liberations lead to a turning point in the war?Sept. 18, 202204:29It was unclear what impact holding such votes would have on the ground, with analysts suggesting the sudden moves may betray a growing concern over how much longer Russia’s struggling military can maintain control over the land it has occupied.

Separatist officials in the eastern areas of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as the southern Kherson region and partially occupied Zaporizhzhia, announced they would hold the votes over four days starting Friday, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported. 


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