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Russia’s State Duma approves accession of four Ukrainian regions

Monitors show voting results at an unscheduled plenary session of the State Duma of the Russian Federation on October 3, 2022. (Photo by RT)

Russia’s lower house of parliament has unanimously approved laws on the accession of four eastern Ukrainian regions to Russia, following referendums that overwhelmingly favored the integration of the areas into the Russian Federation.

Members of the State Duma voted on Monday to incorporate Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, with no abstentions or votes against.

"The decision was taken unanimously. There are 89 entities in the Russian Federation," parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a post on his Telegram, along with a map of Russia including the four regions, as well as Crimea, which joined Russia in 2014.

Speaking shortly after the votes, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov congratulated representatives from the four regions and said he was confident the upper house — the Federation Council — would also approve the accession on Tuesday.

Separate referendums were held between September 23 and 27 despite a widely publicized media campaign by Kiev and its Western sponsors who labeled the votes “a sham.” Russian President Vladimir Putin later signed a decree for the formal accession of the four regions.

Putin has said people in these regions are now considered Russian citizens as they have made their choice in referendums.

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine was launched on February 24, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the 2014 Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, the Russian leader said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Russia has funds to support four regions: Minister

In another development on Monday, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow has adequate funds to support the four regions and that the money is part of the country's budget. "Priority for the next three years will be the full integration of the new regions," Siluanov said, without saying how much would be spent.

"The federal budget has necessary resources for this, both for the current provision of social standards... as well as funds for the economic restoration of the new regions of the Russian Federation."

According to the finance ministry, Russia plans to earn 27.7 trillion rubles this year and to spend 29 trillion rubles, leading to a deficit of 1.3 trillion rubles or 0.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The budget deficit is expected to widen to 2% of the GDP next year before narrowing to 0.7% of the GDP in 2025.

“Russia to consult locals before delimiting Ukraine regions it claims”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Monday that it would carry out consultations with local people before determining the exact borders of the areas to be integrated into Russia.

"We will continue to consult with people who live in these areas," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to the southern Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

"No doubt, any configuration will depend only on the will of the people who live in a particular territory," he said.

Peskov, however, said he could not specify what format the consultation would take.

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