A view of the Kremlin's Spasskaya tower in central Moscow on September 28, 2022. - The pro-Moscow leaders of Ukraine's Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions called on President Vladimir Putin on September 28 to formally annex the territories into Russia, claiming residents had backed the move in a referendum. (Photo by Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

Moscow’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine made a “conscious and free choice” to join Russia after Kremlin proxies organised so-called referendums in the territories they control.

“The results of the plebiscites speak for themselves: the people of the Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions do not want to go back to their old lives and have made a conscious and free choice in favour of Russia,” the ministry said in a statement.

The statement came after the Moscow-installed leaders in the three regions asked President Vladimir Putin to formally annex the territories.

The statement said that an “overwhelming majority” had backed joining Russia, claiming an almost one hundred percent backing in the Donetsk region — “99.23 percent.” Moscow said the voting was “carried out in full accordance to the norms and principles of international law”, even though the territories were captured by force and the votes hastily organised in a race against Kyiv’s counter-offensive.

“In the near future there will be a crucial stage of joint actions to fulfil the aspirations of the residents” of the four regions, the statement said. Western countries have vowed not to recognise Moscow’s move. Kyiv has called for more military aid in response.

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