WATCH: Russia ramps up attack on Ukraine as referendums held in occupied regions
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, reaffirming to the Ukraine president that Canada won’t “ever” recognize the results of Russia’s recent “sham” referendums in occupied Ukraine.
The Russian government held referendums in the four occupied regions in Ukraine between Sept. 23 and Sept. 27, where pro-Moscow officials claim residents have overwhelmingly voted in favour of joining Russia.
Many western leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have slammed the referendums as a “sham.” Trudeau repeated this characterization of the votes in his conversation with Zelenskyy, according to the Wednesday readout.
“The Prime Minister and the President denounced Russia’s illegitimate ‘referendums’ in occupied regions of Ukraine, which are a blatant violation of international law and a further escalation of Russia’s invasion,” the readout of the conversation said.
“The Prime Minister reaffirmed that Canada does not and will not ever recognize the results of these sham referendums or Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories.”
Trudeau had previously condemned the referendums in a tweeted statement Sept. 20, calling them a “blatant violation of international law” and a “further escalation of war.”
According to Russia-installed election officials, 93 per cent of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87 per cent in the Kherson region, 98 per cent in the Luhansk region and 99 per cent in Donetsk.
Together, the four provinces represent about 15 per cent of Ukrainian territory.
According to the readout of their phone call, Trudeau “commended” Zelenskyy’s leadership and reiterated Canada’s “strong ongoing support for Ukraine.”
“The leaders agreed to continue engaging and mobilizing global leaders in support of Ukraine, and against Russia’s ongoing brutal actions,” it said.
“Prime Minister Trudeau and President Zelenskyy agreed to keep in close and regular contact.”
Russian officials, meanwhile, have suggested the results of the referendums could be used as a reason to escalate the war.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now deputy chairman of President Vladimir Putin’s Security Council, took to social media to warn that anyone entering what Russia considers to be its territory is committing a “crime” that would allow Russia “to use all the forces of self-defence.”
Putin issued a similar warning in a seven-minute televised address shortly before the referendums were held.
“Our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” he said.
As she walked out of a caucus meeting on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland suggested Canadians shouldn’t even call these votes “referendums.”
“We all know that words matter. These are not referendums. These are a fake. They are a sham, and they are recognized by the whole world as such,” Freeland said.
Rather, what these votes show is that Putin “understands he’s losing,” she added.
“It’s a good thing for him to lose. This is an illegal and barbaric war, and what we all have to do now is double down on supporting Ukraine,” Freeland said.
“The sooner Ukraine wins, the sooner the torture and the death ends, and the sooner the global economy can get back into doing our job of recovering from the COVID recession and bringing prosperity to the people of our countries.”
— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober, Reuters
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