Zelensky defies Putin’s nuke threat as ‘99% opt to join Russia’ in sham vote

UKRAINE’S President Volodymyr Zelensky has defied Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat and vowed to retake more land after a farcical 99 per cent allegedly voted to join Russia in sham referendums.

The war-time President said Russia’s “criminal” elections would not change Ukraine’s battle plans.

President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia's sham referendums a 'farce'

President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia’s sham referendums a ‘farce’Credit: Alamy
In Luhansk, 99 per cent allegedly voted in favour of joining Russia

In Luhansk, 99 per cent allegedly voted in favour of joining RussiaCredit: AP
President Vladimir Putin has vowed to use 'all means' necessary to defend Russian territory

President Vladimir Putin has vowed to use ‘all means’ necessary to defend Russian territoryCredit: AP
Russian military doctrine allows the use of nukes on 'Russian territory'

Russian military doctrine allows the use of nukes on ‘Russian territory’Credit: AFP

In an address shortly after results from the sham votes were released, Zelensky said: “We will act to protect our people: both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhia region, in the Donbass, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in the Crimea.

“This farce in the occupied territory cannot even be called an imitation of referendums.

“And as for the front, I will say it briefly and for now without details, although they will be good: we are moving forward and liberating our land”

Mad Vlad’s sham referendums claim up to 99 per cent of people in four Ukrainian regions want to join Russia – raising fears the tyrant could use the outcome as an excuse to launch nukes.

In response, the US had offered Ukraine another arms package worth $1.1billion.

Residents have been forced to vote at gunpoint over the past five days in occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Western officials have slammed the vote, in which Putin‘s goons have menacingly carried ballot boxes from house to house.

Reports also emerged of Russian soldiers marching residents to polling stations and watching as they cast their votes.

The results – which observers say are also likely to be rigged – will be finalised in the coming days but are expected to show overwhelming support for joining Russia.

Putin could formally annex the territories as soon as Friday, even though his forces do not control all of the four regions following a heroic fightback.

It would allow him to claim Russian territory was under attack and launch nukes in response.

And the blood-hungry dictator could also send conscripts to the front line.

Russian law makes it illegal to send conscripts outside Russia unless in a time of war – but Putin still insists it is a “special military operation”.

State-run RIA news said initial counts showed farcical levels of support for joining Russia.

Putin’s puppet officials declared 99.23 per cent approval after all votes were counted in Donetsk, in the far east, while the figure was 98.42 per cent in neighbouring Luhansk.

In the southern region of Kherson – where there has been a major fightback in recent weeks – officials claimed 87.05 per cent voted to join Russia.

And in Zaporizhzhia some 93 per cent of residents were allegedly in favour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the results a “farce”.

“This farce in the occupied territory cannot even be called an imitation of referendums,” he said.

“As for the front, I will say it briefly and for now without details, although they will be good: we are moving forward and liberating our land.”

It comes as Mad Vlad said last week that he was willing to “use all the means at our disposal” to uphold the “territorial integrity” of Russia.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the EU to slap further sanctions on Moscow as punishment for staging the votes, which Kyiv said will make no difference to how it responds on the battlefield.

Kyiv also said it would not engage in peace talks if any annexation of Ukrainian territory goes ahead and said any citizens helping Russia hold the vote would face treason charges.

The referenda were hurriedly called this month after Ukraine seized swatches of land in a blitzkrieg counter-offensive in northeastern Kharkiv region.

The West and Ukraine claims the votes are a sham because hundreds of thousands of locals have already fled and because Russia is hurriedly trying to claim sovereignty of regions it barely controls militarily.

Russian deployed a similar tactic when it seized Crimea in 2014 and claimed 97 per cent of people voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Valentina Matviyenko, a senior Russian politician, said that if the vote results went in Moscow’s favour, Russia’s parliament could move to incorporate the four regions on October 4 – three days before Mad Vlad’s 70th birthday.

That would allow Putin to order his 300,000 new conscripts on the frontline, which are not legally to fight outside of Russia.

It would also allow him to invoke Russia’s military doctrine that allows the use of nukes of it’s territory is ‘attacked’.

It comes as Dmitry Medvedev – a former president of Russia – gave the chilling warning in the wake of the Putin’s TV rant in which he threatened the West with nuclear weapons.

He said If the territories joined Russia then they will be entitled to protection from Russian nuclear weapons, said Medvedev.

“Any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection,” he said, possibly referring to hypersonic missiles.

Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said “there is no going back” when it comes to the referendums.

“The Donbas republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia,” he said.

Known as Putin’s “yes man”, 56-year-old Medvedev was previously seen as more moderate than the Russian leader, although he has taken an increasingly hard line in recent years.

Since the war began to turn against Putin, fears have been raised he could order the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which are designed for use on the battlefield rather than destroying cities.

While smaller in explosive power than strategic nuclear weapons, they are nevertheless capable of inflicting devastating losses on an enemy.

Battlefield nuclear weapons are generally carried in bombs, artillery shells and smaller missiles.

Reports have emerged of soldiers with guns marching residents to polling stations

Reports have emerged of soldiers with guns marching residents to polling stationsCredit: EPA