Russia Triggers Plan to Formally Annex Occupied Ukrainian Regions

KYIV—Russian-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions set out plans for referendums on joining Russia this week.
In the apparently coordinated move, Russian-backed officials announced planned referendums for Sept. 23–27 in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15 percent of Ukrainian territory or an area about the size of Hungary.
Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.
In a post on social media addressed to Putin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, wrote: “I ask you, as soon as possible, in the event of a positive decision in the referendum—which we have no doubt about—to consider the DPR becoming a part of Russia.”…

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