About 93% of those casting their ballots on the first day of the referendum on the Zaporizhzhia region joining the Russian Federation were in favor, according to a poll released Sunday by a Russian firm.
The Crimean Republican Institute for Political and Sociological Research said it surveyed 500 residents of the Russian-occupied region. Ukrainian and U.S. officials have dismissed the voting for “sham referendums,” which began Friday.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that Russia is pushing ahead with referendums in parts of Ukraine it controls because President Vladimir Putin knows he is losing the war and must justify continuing to fight it. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Zelenskyy said Putin plans on annexing the territories so he can justify continuing the invasion by claiming he is actually defending Russian territory.
Zelenskyy said people who fail to support annexation could face retribution – such as having their electricity cut off. The Russians “won’t give them an opportunity to live a normal human life,” he said.
A monthlong Ukraine counteroffensive has driven Russia back from thousands of miles of Ukraine territory and compelled Putin to approve a “partial” military mobilization aimed at adding 300,000 soldiers to his battered military.
“Look, he knows. He feels it, and his military leadership reports to him. He knows that he’s losing the war,” Zelenskyy said. “In the battlefield, Ukraine has seized the initiative. He cannot explain to his society why.”
A DRAFT AND MASS GRAVES: Last week’s key events in Ukraine’s war with Russia
►Two U.S. military veterans who disappeared more than three months ago while fighting with Ukrainian forces are back in Alabama after a prisoner exchange. Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh had gone missing June 9.
►Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic on Sunday played down an agreement signed with Russia, saying it was “technical” and not related to security issues. Serbia, seeking EU membership, has not joined in the bloc’s sanctions against Russia.
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‘Catastrophic consequences for Russia’ if Putin uses nuclear weapons
The U.S. has warned the Kremlin of the devastating consequences Russia would face should nuclear weapons be used in Ukraine, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The United States will respond decisively. In private channels, we have spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean.”
Zelenskyy said he does not believe Putin was bluffing when he said he would be justified in using any force necessary – implying tactical nuclear weapons are not off the table.
“He wants to scare the whole world,” Zelenskyy said. “I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him.”
THE ENTIRE WORLS IS LOSING: A look at where the war goes from here.