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G7 leaders condemn ‘sham’ referendums in occupied Ukraine

Leaders of the G7 condemned the “sham” Russian referendums being carried out in occupied Ukraine as a “phony” pretext to illegally grab territory.

In a statement on Friday evening, the group of the wealthiest nations said that the votes organized by Moscow were in breach of the U.N. Charter and international law and had no legitimacy.

Russia started on Friday asking people in the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia if they wanted to join Russia, in an attempt to formalize the annexation of the four areas. The self-styled referendums will take place over five days.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. called out Russia’s “blatant intimidation of local populations” who have “consistently resisted Russian efforts to change borders by force.” Armed soldiers have been going door-to-door to gather votes, according to media reports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday denounced the Moscow-initiated votes as a “farce.” He also asked residents of the occupied regions to hide from Russia’s mobilization “by any means,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this week that 300,000 reservists would be called up.

The referendums come as the U.N. said on Friday that Russia had committed war crimes in Ukraine including the bombings of civil areas, summary executions, torture and sexual violence including against children. Investigators visited 27 Ukrainian towns and settlements and interviewed over 150 victims and witnesses, it said.

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