(MENAFN) Later on, Tuesday, annexation referendums in four seized districts of Ukraine will conclude, clearing the path for Moscow to legally grab additional land and escalate its military operation, potentially within days.
Voting on whether to join Russia is taking place in Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia, four areas that account for around 15% of Ukraine's landmass.
While Kiev and its Western supporters call the elections a "sham," Russian media reports significant turnout.
According to the Kremlin-backed RIA Novosti news agency, the vote rate in rebel-held Luhansk was above 90% as of early Tuesday.
Moscow says that voting is voluntary and impartial, but the results will invariably favor annexation.
After conquering Crimea in 2014, Russia organized a referendum and stated that 97 percent of the population opted to join Russia.
Traditional Russian allies such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, meanwhile, have stated that they would not recognize the newest annexation votes.
The five-day drill has been marred by anomalies, like as claims of Russian forces going door-to-door and forcing Ukrainians to vote.
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