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Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine will vote on annexation

Ukrainian regions controlled by Moscow will vote urgently on annexation by Russia, separatist officials said on Tuesday.

This comes as Kyiv troops managed to regain control of territory captured by Moscow forces.

Separatist authorities in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, said they would hold the vote over five days starting Friday this week.

The regions are on the front lines of a massive Ukrainian counter-offensive that has seen Kyiv forces retake hundreds of towns and villages that have been under Russian control for months.

Their integration into Russia would represent a major escalation of the conflict as Moscow could try to say it was defending its own territory against Ukrainian forces.

Washington, Berlin and Paris denounced the polls and said the international community would never recognize the results while NATO said the votes marked a “further escalation” in the war.

Kyiv said “mock” referendums made no sense and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would continue to retake the territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced.

Christi C. Elwood