Today, Friday, the Kremlin expressed its desire to quickly annex the Ukrainian regions, where referendum operations were launched, which Kyiv and its allies described as illegitimate, while the Donetsk region in the Donbas region, eastern Ukraine, is witnessing rapid military developments.
Hours after the start of the vote on the accession of Russian-controlled areas in Donetsk, Lugansk, Donbass region (east) and Zaporozhye and Kherson (south), Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the procedure for annexing these areas could be swift.
Peskov added that the attempts by Ukraine to restore these areas will be interpreted at the time as an attack on Russia, referring to the attacks launched by Ukrainian forces in Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson to restore the areas controlled by Russian forces during the war that began on February 24. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he will use all means to defend the Ukrainian regions where referendums are held.
Later, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian National Security Council, explained that the means mentioned by Putin include “strategic nuclear weapons.”
During the first four days of the referendum in the four Ukrainian regions, partial and remote voting will take place, with direct voting to take place on the 27th of this month, the fifth and final day of polling.
Denouncing the referendum
On the other hand, the Ukrainian President described the referendum organized by Russia as a farce, while Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal described it as a fictitious, stressing that his country will do everything to liberate its lands.
The United States and Ukraine’s Western allies, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) condemned the Russian referendums as false, stressing that they would not recognize its results.
Similar referendums ended with the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, and the declaration of two separatist “republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
While voting was taking place, the Ukrainian army announced today that it had recaptured the town of Yatskivka from Russian forces in the Donetsk region. The Ukrainian army also confirmed the restoration of positions south of the city of Bakhmut, which the Russian forces were trying to storm recently.
This development comes a day after Ukrainian forces launched an offensive to retake the strategic city of Lyman north of Donetsk, days after retaking most of the areas controlled by Russian forces in the Kharkiv Province (northeast) bordering Donetsk.
Sources told Al Jazeera that the Ukrainian army is making remarkable progress in the Lyman axis, which is the new front opened by the Ukrainian forces with the aim of regaining control of strategic cities in the region.
On the other hand, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its forces had eliminated more than 320 Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk.
Also in Donetsk, Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that 19 people were injured and dozens were trapped under the rubble after a Russian air strike targeted a 9-storey building in the city of Toritsk, while Donetsk forces loyal to Russia announced that two artillery shells had fallen on the Kalinin neighborhood, east of Donetsk.
On the southern front, the Russian Defense Ministry said that its forces launched attacks on Ukrainian forces in Zaporozhye and Mykolaiv, and repelled Ukrainian missile attacks in the Russian-controlled Kherson province, while the pro-Russian authorities spoke of thwarting a Ukrainian missile attack targeting Kherson.
Also in Kherson, the Russian Defense Ministry broadcast pictures it said was of the destruction of a convoy of Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles, which consisted of 16 tanks and armored vehicles, accompanied by more than 120 soldiers.
In Mykolaiv, Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that the city was subjected to a Russian bombardment, which targeted an abandoned factory for repairing aircraft and an adjacent commercial administrative building, causing malfunctions in the electricity and water networks, and damaging some buildings and roads.
Also in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Air Force said that the Odessa Missile Brigade had shot down 4 Iranian-made Shahid-136 drones, and the attacks with these planes killed one person, according to local authorities.
In addition, two people were killed and nine others wounded in Russian bombing of villages in the Dnipropetrovsk region in southeastern Ukraine, according to local authorities.
On the Kharkiv front, the Ukrainian provincial governor said that Russian forces tried to launch an attack in the Kobyansk region, but suffered heavy losses and retreated.