The Moscow-controlled region in southern Ukraine has voted in a referendum to join the neighboring country, early results show.
Residents of Zaporozhye Region in Ukraine, which is partially controlled by Moscow, have elected to break away from the country and join the Russian Federation. More than 93% of voters support the idea of splitting from Ukraine and joining Russia, official figures show.
The referendum – which ran for five days alongside those in the neighboring Kherson Region and in the two Donbass republics – concluded on Tuesday.
Most of Zaporozhye Region was seized by the Russian military early in the ongoing campaign that broke out in late February. The region’s capital, however, the city of Zaporozhye, remains under Ukraine’s control. Melitopol serves as the de facto capital of the Russia-controlled part.
Kiev and its Western backers have already rejected the referendums on joining Russia, denouncing them as a “sham” ballot, vowing to never accept them regardless of the outcome. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said the completion of referendums would “make it impossible, in any case, to continue any diplomatic negotiations” with Russia.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.