The areas of Russian-controlled Ukraine that are holding referendums on joining Russia may be absorbed by the Russian Federation on September 30, a Russian lawmaker told TASS on Saturday.
Referendums are currently being held in the self-declared republics of Donestk and Luhansk and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. The voting is set to be concluded on Tuesday.
“Taking into account the preliminary results of the referendums and Russia’s readiness to acknowledge them, the accession of the territories is likely to take place as early as on September 30,” an unnamed member of Russia’s State Duma told Tass.
The Russian lawmaker said that President Vladimir Putin could take part in the procedure on September 30, this coming Friday. In a speech last week where he announced a partial mobilization, Putin expressed support for the referendums.
TASS also reported that the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, could begin discussions on a bill for absorbing the new territories as soon as Wednesday.
Russian officials have made clear that after annexing the regions, they would view attacks on the area as attacks on Russian territory. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that the new territories would be under Russia’s “full protection.”
Putin warned the West last week that Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend its “territorial integrity.” Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as the deputy chair of the Russian Security Council, explicitly warned that Moscow could use nuclear weapons to defend the new territories.