Senior official prepares sham referendum in occupied Ukraine, says Washington

A senior Russian official has been tasked with organizing a “mock” referendum to annex Ukrainian territories to Russia, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday, assuring that the vote could take place quickly.

Sergei Kirienko, deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration and a close associate of Vladimir Putin, is overseeing efforts to “attempt to annex Ukrainian territories to Russia,” ” which, if carried out, would be illegal,” Vedant Patel said at a press briefing.

The White House had already warned on August 24 that Moscow could announce one or more “illegitimate” referendums in occupied Ukraine in the coming weeks.

“The sham referendum will try to give a veneer of legitimacy to a clear spoliation of land that would violate the Ukrainian constitution and international laws,” Patel continued.

“The United States and the international community know the truth, which is that all of Ukraine is and will remain Ukraine,” he added.

The U.S. executive branch said on August 24 that the referendums could be held in the southern city of Kherson, in Zaporizhia in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, and in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city.

Crimea had been annexed in March 2014 by Russia after an intervention of Russian special forces and a referendum of attachment denounced as illegal by Kiev and the West.

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