Referendums which reportedly endorse Russian rule in parts of Ukraine are a “sham”, Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney said Ireland would not recognise the results of the votes which he described as an attempt by Russia to gain control of parts of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
Pro-Russian leaders in four occupied regions of Ukraine said the votes show the vast majority of people support the annexation of the areas by Russia.
However, the referendums have widely been condemned as illegitimate.
Speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Coveney said: “We think the process has been a sham.
“We think it has been a rushed effort by Russia to try to gain control of parts of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
“We will not recognise the results of referendums that we don’t believe truly reflect what people in those parts of Ukraine actually want.”
He added: “This has been a sham process.
“It is an attempt by Russia to annex part of their neighbour’s territory so that they could say if Ukraine made progress militarily into regaining parts of their own territory from Russian forces that that is encroaching on Russian territory.
“Therefore that gives them a licence to do other more horrific things than they have already done.
“We will not recognise this process as in any way legitimate or legally sound.
“We will continue to support Ukraine in their efforts to free their land and their own people from Russian aggression.”
According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk.
Russian-installed officials in those occupied regions said on Wednesday they would ask President Vladimir Putin to incorporate them into Russia.
Western countries, however, have dismissed the ballots as a meaningless pretence staged by Moscow in an attempt to legitimise its invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24.
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