NATO chief warns Russia against sham Ukraine referendums

NATO chief warns Russia against sham Ukraine referendums

BRUSSELS: NATO will increase its help for Kyiv in response to Russian sham referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine, the alliance's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Friday that Moscow launched the votes on the four regions joining Russia in a ruse to annex the territories and escalate the seven-month old war.

The votes have raised fears that Moscow could include the four areas and then portray attacks to retake them as an attack on Russia itself.

Stoltenberg said when asked about that scenario, that's exactly what we need to be prepared for, that Russia will use these sham votes to escalate the war in Ukraine.

These votes don't change anything because they don't change anything. He said that this continues to be a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

NATO allies have been supporting Ukraine with weapons, ammunition, other military equipment and training.

The four-day referendums were quickly organized after Ukrainian troops recaptured large swathes of the northeast in a counter-offensive.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing this week a military draft to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin seems to be trying to regain the upper hand in the bitter conflict since its February 24 invasion.

Putin maintains that Russia is carrying out a special military operation to demilitarise Ukraine, rid it of dangerous nationalists and defend Russia from the transatlantic alliance NATO.

Moscow believes that the referendums give people the chance to express their views.