Preliminary results on the third of five voting days shows the threshold having been reached in Donbass and Zaporozhye and almost met in Kherson
The referendums on joining Russia are continuing in the Donbass republics and Russian-controlled regions of southern Ukraine. On Sunday, the turnout already reached the required 50% threshold in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics and Zaporozhye Region, with only Kherson lagging behind.
In the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), more than 76% of eligible voters have already cast their votes, according to official figures. The referendum in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) is proceeding at a similar pace, with some 77% of voters having shown up at the polling stations.
Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, which were largely seized by Russian forces amid the ongoing conflict, have demonstrated a lower turnout. Still, the latter region has already met the required legal threshold, with some 51.55% of registered voters already casting their ballots, according to the head of the Zaporozhye electoral committee, Galina Katyshenko. Kherson has so far demonstrated lower turnout, with nearly 49% of voters showing up for the referendum. Polls across the two regions and in the Donbass republics are set to stay open for the next two days.
Ukraine and its Western backers have rejected the referendums on joining Russia as illegal and have vowed to not recognize them regardless of their outcome. Speaking to US broadcaster CBS on Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky warned that should Russia complete the referendums, it would "make it impossible, in any case, to continue any diplomatic negotiations" with Moscow.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.