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A detainee votes in a Kherson Region referendum on joining Russia at a pre-trial detention center
The sham vote has taken place in four regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and ZaporizhzhiaImage: ITAR-TASS/IMAGO

Ukraine updates: EU widens sanctions after 'referendums'

September 28, 2022

The European Union has denounced the "illegal" annexation votes Russia held in occupied Ukrainian regions and proposed a new raft of sanctions. Meanwhile, the US announced new aid for Kyiv. DW rounds up the latest.


The European Union has proposed a raft of new sanctions against Russia in response to the so-called referendums in four Ukrainian regions

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement, saying the package was designed "to make the Kremlin pay" for escalating the conflict in Ukraine with what she called "sham" votes in occupied territory.

The sanctions package includes further import bans on Russian products, expected to deprive Moscow of an additional €7 billion ($6.7 billion) in revenues. 

It also features export bans on key technology used for the military such as aviation items, electronic components and specific chemical substances.

The sanctions package will map out the legal basis for an oil price cap and will ban EU citizens from sitting on governing bodies of Russian state-owned companies, von der Leyen said.

"We do not accept the sham referenda and any kind of annexation in Ukraine, and we are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation," she told reporters in Brussels. 

'We do not accept the sham referendum'

Speaking alongside von der Leyen, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said individuals involved in organizing of the self-styled referendums and top officials from the Russian Defense Ministry would be subject to EU entry bans and asset freezes. He said the list of blacklisted individuals would also include anyone helping Moscow to circumvent sanctions.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, the EU has implemented six rounds of sanctions targeting Russian individuals, entities, good exports and technology and banking as well as an embargo on most Russian oil and coal exports.

Here's a roundup of other news from or concerning the war in Ukraine on September 28.

US announces $1.1 billion in new Ukraine military aid

The United States on Wednesday announced that it would provide Ukraine with another $1.1 billion (€1.13 billion) in military aid. That money will fund the purchase of roughly 18 advanced rocket systems, as well as other anti-drone weaponry.

The Biden administration said the funds will be provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The Department of Defense (USDOD) program facilitates the purchase of US military hardware to enable Ukraine to better defend itself against invading Russian forces.

The announcement comes as Russia seeks to annex large swaths of Ukraine after staging sham "referendums" that the US says it will "never accept."

Wednesday's aid brings the total Kyiv has received from the US since Joe Biden took office to $17 billion.

Germany will 'never recognize' Russia's 'sham' vote in Ukraine — Scholz

Germany will not accept the results of the annexation votes organised by Moscow in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a phone call.

"Germany will never recognize the results of the sham referendums" in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that purported to show majorities in favour of being absorbed into Russia, Scholz told Zelenskyy, according to the chancellor's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz also said Germany's financial, political and humanitarian support for Ukraine would not waver and it would continue to back Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including weapons deliveries.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss also told Zelenskyy that Britain would never recognize Russian attempts to annex the Ukrainian regions.

"The prime minister made clear that the UK would never recognize Russian attempts to annex sovereign territory. She reiterated that Ukraine could depend on the UK’s support until President Putin was defeated," the spokesperson said.

Poland's Foreign Ministry also condemned the referendums.

"We call on members of the international community not to recognize the legitimacy of these pseudo-referendums and their 'results', which cannot in any way reflect the will of the people of these regions, who were often forcibly coerced into voting," the ministry said in a statement.

Serbia won't recognize results of sham 'referendums' in Ukraine

Serbia will not recognize the results of "referendums" held in four regions of Ukraine partly occupied by Russian forces, President Aleksandar Vucic said, despite Belgrade's warm ties with Moscow.

"Serbia ... will not recognize that (referendums) as it adheres to international law, the United Nations Charter and UN resolutions," Vucic told reporters.

Serbia, a candidate for European Union membership, is solely reliant on Russia for its natural gas supplies and has refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.

The Kremlin supports Belgrade in its continued opposition to recognizing the independence of Kosovo, a former southern Serbian province populated mainly by ethnic Albanians.

"We are protecting our own territorial integrity and it is in our best interest to protect the territorial integrity of other internationally recognized countries," Vucic said.

Ukraine also refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

Russia wants to conquer the entire Donetsk region — Kremlin

The Kremlin said that the war, which it calls a "special military operation," in Ukraine would continue until Russia takes full control of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the military campaign in Ukraine would continue "at a minimum" until the "liberation" of the "Donetsk People's Republic," referring to the region's Russian-backed administration.

So far, Russian troops have controlled around 58% of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

Russian-installed heads of occupied Ukraine's regions ask Putin for incorporation into Russia

The Russian-installed heads of Ukraine's Russian-controlled Kherson and Luhansk regions published the requests to President Vladimir Putin, asking him to incorporate those regions into Russia.

"Taking into account the fact that the population of the republic approved the decision in the referendum, I ask you to consider the issue of 'Luhansk People's Republic' becoming a part of Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation," separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik said.

His counterparts from the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, and Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, also published their appeals asking for the regions to be incorporated into Russia. The Russian-installed head of the "Donetsk People's Republic" is expected to make a similar call on Wednesday.

Russia is poised to formally annex areas of Ukraine where it has military control after the hastily organized "referendums" that the West and Ukraine have denounced as an illegitimate sham.

Western response to Russian use of nukes would be 'devastating' — Petraeus

Western allies' answer to the possible Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be "devastating," former CIA director David Petraeus told DW.

According to Petraeus, Western countries are communicating with Russia that use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would bring a catastrophic response.

He also assumed that this response would include targeting of Russian forces in Ukraine and on Black Sea.

"It would be devastating for Russian forces there," Petraeus said.

However, he said that the possibility of Russian use of nuclear weapons should be taken seriously.

"I don't think that is so likely, but something so dangerous and horrific does have to be taken seriously," Petraeus said.

Sham votes in Russia-held Ukrainian regions are 'fiction' — Hug

The so-called "referendums" held over last few days in the occupied regions of Ukraine were "a work of fiction," Alexander Hug, the former principal deputy chief monitor of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, told DW.

"And a very obscene fiction that is in which viewers are invited to suppose that victims of atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces might side with the perpetrators of them," he said.

According to Hug, the script for what happened and what will happen in occupied Ukrainian regions has been written a long time ago.

"What happened in 2014 [annexation of Crimea and Russian interference in Donbas] was probably the precursor of what we now may see to be unfold in these four areas," he said.

However, Hug emphasized that Ukraine has all the right to defend its territory. "That remains its territory after these illegal actions that Russia took," he said.

Ex-OSCE official Hug: 'Russia's occupation and claimed victory in 'sham' referendums are illegal'

Ukraine urges 'significant' military aid boost after annexation votes

Ukraine called on the West to "significantly" increase its military aid to Ukraine after pro-Kremlin authorities in four Moscow-held regions of Ukraine declared victory in annexation votes

"Ukraine calls on the EU, NATO and the Group of Seven to immediately and significantly increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing tough sanctions and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine," Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement also said that Russian-staged votes in four Ukrainian regions on becoming part of Russia were "null and worthless", and that Ukraine would press on with efforts to liberate Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Ukraine "will never agree to any ultimatums."

EU vows retaliation if Nord Stream pipelines damage is sabotage

The European Union believes sabotage is the likely cause of leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines and is threatening countermeasures, its top diplomat Josep Borrell said on behalf of all member states.

"The European Union is deeply concerned about damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines that has resulted in leaks in the international waters of the Baltic Sea," Borrell said in a statement. "These incidents are not a coincidence and affect us all."

According to Borrell, all of the available information indicated that the leaks were the result of a deliberate act. "We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security," he said.

Borrell said that any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and would be met with a "robust and united response."

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attributed the leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines to acts of sabotage and said he had discussed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries with the Danish defense minister.

Canada to impose new sanctions on Russia over 'sham' referendums

Canada will impose new sanctions over Russia's "sham" referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trudeau said Canada would never recognize the results of the referendums or Russia's attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories.

"We intend to impose new sanctions against persons and entities that are complicit in this latest attempt to undermine the principles of state sovereignty, and that share responsibility for the ongoing senseless bloodshed across Ukraine," Trudeau said in a statement.

More Ukraine-related content on DW

The US and NATO condemned Kremlin-staged "referendums" in eastern Ukraine as voting concluded.

Germany's population has hit a record high of more than 84 million people this year, driven mainly by an influx of Ukrainian refugees.

dh/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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