Russia's proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts plan to hold "referendums" on joining Russia on Sept. 23-27, Russian state-controlled news agency Interfax reported on Sept. 20.
Russia's proxies in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and Kherson are also reportedly preparing sham referendums.
Following the reports, President Volodymyr Zelensky's Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said that Russia is afraid and tries to manipulate.
“This is what the fear of defeat looks like," he said.
Earlier in September, Ukraine’s Armed Forces conducted a successful counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, forcing Russian soldiers to withdraw from most of the region.
for an independent Ukraine