Ukrainians living in the four regions illegally annexed by Russia following several sham referendums have just one month to change their citizenship, Yevgeny Ivanov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, told state news agency RIA Novosti on Oct. 4.

“The same as it was with Crimea – within a month, they [Ukrainian residents] must decide, make a choice,” Ivanov said, adding that the issuance of Russian documents would be accelerated.

The annexations are illegal under international law and have been widely condemned by western leaders. They follow sham referenda held in the regions that saw widespread voter intimidation and other forms of electoral fraud.

In occupied Kherson, after the counting of ballots, the Russian regional administration claimed 87 percent of voters voted to join Russia. In Zaporizhzhia, the figure was announced as 93 percent from all tallied votes.

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In the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, authorities said that the votes in favor of joining Russia had reached 98 percent, with Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist group, telling Russian TV channel RBC TV: “The next steps are the signing of the agreement, and then ratification in the Russian Federation in both chambers: the State Duma and the Federation Council.”

With Ukraine’s strong counteroffensive continuing to recapture occupied territories, including the recent liberation of the city of Lyman, Russia is desperately pressing ahead with its annexation plans.

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On Monday, Russia’s legislature began the process of approving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex the four regions, despite Russia not being in full control of them. Furthermore, the exact boundaries of each territory have not yet being agreed upon by officials in Moscow.

Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Oct. 1 that the retreat of Russian forces from numerous eastern regions proves Putin’s annexation plans are “a farce.”

“Russia has staged a farce in Donbas,” he said. “An absolute farce, which it wanted to present as an alleged referendum … now a Ukrainian flag is there.”

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The President also vowed that Ukraine would recapture every inch of land stolen by the Russian invaders, saying that “our flag will be everywhere.”

 

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