September 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

A man casts his vote during a referendum on the secession of the Zaporizhzhia region from Ukraine in the Russian-held town of Melitopol on September 26. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters)

White House officials are watching closely and preparing for their potential response on Monday as four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine continue to vote in referendums that are effectively conducted at gunpoint and have been dismissed by the West as a “sham”.

With the results of the Russian-organized vote expected to be announced as early as tomorrow, US officials predict that Russia could quickly annex the four areas, potentially within days.

If and when they do, it would prompt a swift response from the United States, which has pledged not to recognize the results, an official said.

The United States is currently not expected to respond until Russia decides to annex the areas, the official said, and it remains to be seen when Russia will ultimately attempt to do so.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said in recent days that Russia has already decided in advance what will happen after the end of these referendums, saying that by “the end of the month, the intention of Russia will be to formalize the annexation of the four regions to the Federation.”

As they monitor the referendums, senior Biden administration officials have become more vocal in recent days about warnings they have issued privately to Russian officials about the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

“Russia understands very well what the United States would do in response to the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine because we explained it for them,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview on Sunday. televised, although he declined to characterize who received them. warnings or what the consequences would be.

Although officials still haven’t seen any indications that Russia is planning to use nuclear weapons in the near term, they are more concerned about the possibility now than they were six or seven months ago. an official confirmed to CNN, although they still maintain the likelihood of Russia doing so is low.

Christi C. Elwood