The sham referendums in the occupied territories bring the result predetermined by the Kremlin. In view of the Ukrainian advance, Putin's agitators threatened Medvedev with nuclear strikes. The partial mobilization is driving thousands of Russians to flee, and the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines indicate acts of sabotage from Moscow. The 216th day of the war at a glance.
Referendums in occupied territories ended
On the final day of "referendums" in four Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine on annexation by Russia, Moscow again threatened to use nuclear weapons. The deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, ex-President Dmitry Medvedev, said that Moscow would defend the affected areas - "including with strategic nuclear weapons". "Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary."
Kremlin: Military Doctrine Allows Nuclear Strikes
The "referendums" in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine's Donbass and in the southern Ukrainian regions of Cherson and Zaporizhia began on Friday, criticized by Kyiv and its western allies as sham referendums. In view of the successes of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, they were organized in haste.
"The legal situation will change radically from the point of view of international law, and that will also have consequences for security in these areas," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Asked whether Medvedev's threats represented the Kremlin's official position, Peskov referred to Russia's "military doctrine" which provides for the possibility of nuclear strikes if areas considered Russian by Moscow are attacked.
EU plans sanctions against organizers
As a reaction to the referendums, which violate international law, the EU wants to impose sanctions on those responsible in the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine. Peter Stano, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said in Brussels that "there will be consequences for everyone involved in organizing these illegal referendums."
First counts in Russia: 97 percent agreement
According to the Russian electoral commission, after the counting of 20 to 27 percent of the votes in the polling stations on Russian territory in the afternoon, there were clear approvals for an annexation by Moscow. Russian news agencies reported that 97 to 98 percent of voters voted yes. Ukrainian citizens residing in Russia were called to vote there.
Georgia and Kazakhstan confirm mass exodus
At the same time, Russia is continuing to partially mobilize 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine. The recruitment drive continued to prompt a number of Russians to leave the country. Two neighboring countries, Georgia and Kazakhstan, confirmed a significant increase in the number of Russians entering the country. An influx was also observed at the borders with Mongolia and Finland.
According to the European border protection agency Frontex, 66,000 Russians entered the European Union last week. That was an increase of more than 30 percent compared to the previous week, the authority said. Most Russians have arrived in Finland and Estonia. If Russia were to close the border for able-bodied people, an increase in illegal border crossings could be expected.
The dissatisfaction of the population in Russia is growing
According to experts, Russia is threatened with increasing resentment among the population and the administrative apparatus with numerous mistakes in the partial mobilization. The government not only faces the challenge of enlisting enough men to continue fighting in Ukraine as quickly as possible, but also has to calm the frightened and angry population, wrote the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). In many places, the Kremlin plays down violations of mobilization laws as failures of individual local officials. But the mistakes are too obvious for the population to believe, according to the ISW status report. Because unlike the Russian defeats in Ukraine, which the population does not get to see directly, they do not have to rely on the media to find out about the mobilization errors.
Nord Stream leaks point to sabotage
The West blamed Russia for three leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. "A leak in three different places with such a large distance between them can only be the result of a deliberate act or sabotage," said Norwegian military scientist and naval officer Tor Ivar Strömmen, who only considered Russia to be responsible.
Swedish seismologists registered explosions in the Baltic Sea. The Danish Navy released images showing large-scale formation of bubbles on the sea surface. At one point, the bubbles can be observed on a circular area a good kilometer in diameter, the military said. "A coincidence is hard to imagine," said Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. The Danish and Swedish authorities confirmed in the morning that gas was leaking from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline at two points.
Ukraine assumes Russian terrorist attack
Ukraine became clearer: "The large-scale 'gas leak' at Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression against the EU," wrote Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak on Twitter. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of an "act of sabotage". All the details are not yet known, but it is "probably the next escalation level of the situation in Ukraine".
Kremlin: Don't want to rule anything out
The government in Moscow was also "extremely worried" about the leaks. "This is an unprecedented situation that needs urgent investigation," said Kremlin spokesman Peskov. When asked if it could be an act of sabotage, he said "no" option could be ruled out.
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