Moscow's main focus is keeping people safe, the president says
Saving people's lives is at the forefront of Russia's attention when it comes to the referendums being held in the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics and the Russian-controlled regions of Zaporozhye and Kherson, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
"In the context of the special military operation and referendums in Donbass, saving people in all territories, namely saving people in all territories where this referendum is being held, is at the forefront," Putin said, adding it is the "focus of attention of our entire society, the entire country."
He added that this level of concern is "natural" in light of recent "dramatic events," and reiterated Moscow's position that the referendums, set to conclude on Tuesday, are ultimately meant to protect the local population and bring peace to the region.
Referendums on joining the Russian Federation have been underway in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, as well as Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, since Friday. The votes are similar to the one that took place in Crimea in March 2014, when residents of the peninsula overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia and secede from Kiev's rule. According to preliminary results announced by the electoral committees, the turnout in the DPR was reportedly over 80% by the fourth day of voting, while it exceeded 90% in the LPR.
Putin has said that Moscow will support any outcome and will welcome the regions should they vote to join Russian. Moscow has also signaled that if the two republics and regions do join, it would consider an assault on those areas to be an attack on its territory and would respond to defend itself.
A number of Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, have condemned the referendums as illegitimate and undemocratic and have vowed to "never recognize" the results.