Countries worldwide rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territories following sham referendums Russia orchestrated in four regions in Ukraine.
“The United States does not, and will never, recognize any of the Kremlin’s claims to sovereignty over parts of Ukraine that it’s seized by force and now purports to incorporate into Russia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said September 30.
Moscow’s latest illegal bid to change Ukraine’s borders by force prompted a quick international rebuke.
Sanctions: The United States, allies, including the United Kingdom, and partners announced September 30 additional sanctions and visa restrictions targeting:
- Russian government officials and their family members.
- Russian and Belarusian military officials.
- Defense procurement networks, including international suppliers supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the Kremlin-held referendums on joining Russia “an illegal attempt to grab land” and said the European Union would propose new import bans on Russian products into its 27 member countries.
Condemnation: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Russia’s actions “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War.”
The presidents of nine NATO countries in central and eastern Europe said October 2 they could not stay silent in the face of the “blatant violation of international law.” The leaders from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia said they would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
On September 23, the first day of so-called voting in the occupied areas, leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies likewise said they would never recognize the referendums or any annexation, Reuters reported. Countries making up the Group of Seven are France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, along with the European Union.
‘Referendum at gunpoint’
As expected, Russian state media reported September 27 that large majorities in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine voted in favor of joining Russia in referendums that ended September 27.
The Kremlin used the false results to claim that voters in the occupied territory wanted to join Russia and annex the four areas.
But the referendums were anything but free and fair. Russia had installed officials loyal to Putin to oversee the elections and Ukrainian civilians were forced to cast ballots under the watch of armed guards.
Ukrainian officials told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that people were banned from leaving some occupied areas until the four-day vote was complete, armed groups were going to homes to force people to cast ballots, and employees were threatened if they did not vote.
The elections were held in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, known collectively as the Donbas region, and in the eastern provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya.
Similar Russian-staged votes were held after the Kremlin invaded and occupied Crimea in 2014.
In his September 30 speech, Putin declared that Russia had four new regions. “People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson region and Zaporizhzhia region are becoming our compatriots forever,” he said.
Leading up to the vote, a Kherson resident called it a “referendum at gunpoint.”
America and its allies “are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats,” Biden told reporters September 30. Putin “can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it.”