TBILISI/MOSCOW: Amid Russian state media claims that first partial voting results from four regions in Ukraine showed overwhelming majorities of residents in favour of joining Moscow, Georgia and Kazakhstan said on Tuesday that tens of thousands of Russians had flooded into their borders from the neighbouring country as military-aged men flee the Ukraine military call-up.
The British Ministry of Defence believed President Vladimir Putin would announce the accession as early as Sept 30 during his address to parliament, but the head of the upper house of the Russian parliament on Tuesday said it could consider the incorporation of Russia-controlled parts of four Ukrainian regions into Russia on Oct 4.
The Black Sea nation of Georgia said the number of Russians arriving daily has nearly doubled since President Putin announced the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists on Sept 21. “Four to five days ago 5,000-6,000 (Russians) were arriving in Georgia daily. The number has grown to some 10,000 per day,” Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said.
Georgia and its neighbour Armenia, which do not require visas for Russians, have been a major destination for Russians fleeing since the Ukraine war began. Over the first four months of the war, nearly 50,000 Russians fled to Georgia and another 40,000 to Armenia.
EU mulls sanctions on vote organisers; US plans more military aid to Kyiv
On Tuesday, Kazakhstan said around 98,000 Russians entered the country since Putin announced the call-up of thousands of reservists for the conflict in Ukraine last week. Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said: “Most of them are forced to leave because of the hopeless situation. We must take care of them and ensure their safety,” he said.
He condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and called for respect of territorial integrity, as Russia held annexation referendums in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
First partial vote results
As Kyiv and the West denounced the referendums as a sham, voting took place over five days in the four regions that make up about 15pc of Ukrainian territory. The exercise paves the way for President Putin to annex the four areas, after which he could portray any Ukrainian attempt to recapture them as an attack on Russia itself. He earlier said he was willing to use nuclear weapons to defend the “territorial integrity” of Russia.
RIA said the initial counts showed majorities ranging from 96.97pc in Kherson region, based on 14pc of votes counted, to 98.19pc in Zaporizhzhia, based on 18pc of the count.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser warned those who help Russian-backed referendums to annexe large swathes of treason trial and at least five years in jail. “We have lists of names of people who have been involved in some way,” Adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Blick.
The EU said it will slap sanctions on organisers of “illegal” votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that Russia is conducting as “referendums” with the aim of annexation. “There would be consequences for all people who participate in the illegal, illegitimate referendums,” Peter Stano, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, told journalists.
A high-ranking official in Borrell’s foreign policy service, Luc Devigne, separately told EU lawmakers that “we will put in individuals that are obviously linked to the recent steps with these referendums” in the sanctions package. The EU member states are deliberating on fresh sanctions on Russia for holding the vote, but any measures have to be unanimously agreed.
Stopgap spending bill
Meanwhile, the US Senate will take an initial vote on a bill, which would extend overall government funding through the next fiscal and call for $12.3 billion in new money to help Ukraine turn back Russia’s invasion.
This includes new military and economic assistance. In addition, the measure authorises Biden to direct the drawdown of up to $3.7bn for the transfer to Ukraine of excess weapons from US stocks. In early September, Biden requested $11.7bn in military and economic aid.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022