Monday marked the fourth day of voting for the referendums taking place in four Eastern Ukraine regions. The referendums are to determine whether or not the areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia will become part of Russia. The vote comes amid rising nuclear threats from Russia and the mobilization of Russian reservists in Putin's latest escalation of the war against Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov expressed that Russia will honor the outcome of the referendums while making clear Russia's disdain for the Ukrainian government. "Following those referendums, Russia of course will respect the expression of the will of those people who for many long years have been suffering from the abuses of the new-Nazi regime." Lavrov's comments came while speaking with a reporter over the weekend after addressing the UN General Assembly.
Meanwhile, former Russian President and current deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, took to the social media app, Telegram, to quell any doubts that Russia will use any means necessary to protect any regions of Ukraine annexed by the outcome of the referendums. "Russia has announced that not only mobilization capabilities but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection." Medvedev's statement comes as a more direct follow-up to more veiled threats of nuclear war made by Putin during his address last week announcing the mobilization.
Lavrov referred to Russia's nuclear doctrine, "all of the laws, doctrines, concepts, and strategies of the Russian Federation apply to all of its territory," when asked by reporters if Russia will defend any territory annexed from Ukraine in the future. He went on to state that any Russian territory will be "under the full protection of the state." Both Lavrov and Medvedev have made it exceedingly clear that Russia will view any attacks aimed at retaking the annexed Ukrainian territory as an attack on Russia.
Despite the warnings to the U.S. and the West that attempts to retake Ukrainian territory will be seen as an attack on Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made it known that Ukraine will not hold back from reclaiming all regions invaded by Russia when he wrote on Telegram, "We will definitely liberate our entire country - from Kherson to the Luhansk region, from Crimea to the Donetsk region."
While the escalation toward possible nuclear war continues in Ukraine, the head of U.S. Strategic Command Admiral Charles Richard stated that for the first time in over 30 years the U.S. could have a "possible direct armed conflict with a nuclear-capable peer." While discussing the conflict in a panel discussion last week, Admiral Richard cautioned that "Russia and China can escalate to any level of violence that they choose in any domain with any instrument of power worldwide." He went on to note that, "the implications of that are profound."
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