United States of America’s President Joe Biden on Friday warned Russia there will be “swift and severe” costs if Moscow uses “sham” referendums to annex more of Ukraine.
Biden said in a statement:
Russia’s referenda are a sham, a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law. We will work with our allies and partners to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia.
Kremlin-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine entered the second day of voting to become part of Russia on Saturday.
The voting on whether Russia should annex four regions of Ukraine started Friday, dramatically raising the stakes seven months after Moscow’s troops invaded.
The votes even prompted a reaction from Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war began in February.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in comments made to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at the UN General Assembly Friday, said the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected.”
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Voting is being held in Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
Polling stations open Tuesday for residents to cast ballots on the final day. It was also possible to vote at the building in Moscow that represents the Donetsk breakaway region.
The vote was announced earlier last week after a Ukrainian counteroffensive seized most of the northeastern Kharkiv region, bringing hundreds of settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.
The four regions’ integration into Russia would represent a major escalation of the conflict as Moscow would consider any military move there as an attack on its own territory.
The referendums are reminiscent of the one held after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday denounced the polls describing them as “crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine.”
Earlier Friday, G7 nations said the polls will “never” be recognized and have “no legal effect or legitimacy.”