Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Saturday that residents of four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Moscow a year ago “have made their choice: to be with their homeland.”
In a speech released early to mark the first anniversary of the annexation, Putin insisted that it had been carried out “in full compliance with international standards”. He also claimed that residents of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions had again expressed their desire to become part of Russia during local elections earlier this month, in which Russia’s Central Election Commission declared that the ruling party had won the most votes.
The West has denounced last year’s referendum votes and recent polls as a sham. The votes came as Russian authorities attempt to tighten their grip on territories that Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still do not fully control.
A concert took place on Friday in Red Square to mark the anniversary, but Putin did not attend.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, air defenses shot down 30 of 40 Iranian-made kamikaze drones targeting the Odessa, Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia provinces overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said Saturday.
Vinnytsia regional governor Serhii Borzov said air defenses had shot down 20 drones over his central Ukraine region, but a “powerful fire” broke out in the town of Kalynivka when a drone had struck an unspecified infrastructure.
Romania’s National Defense Ministry said Saturday that a possible unauthorized entry into its national airspace occurred overnight amid bombing.
The Romanian army’s radar surveillance system detected “a possible unauthorized entry” into the national airspace of NATO member Romania, with a signal detected in the direction of the town of Galati, close to the border with Ukraine.
“At present, no object that fell from the airspace onto the national territory has been identified,” the statement said, adding that NATO allies were informed in real time and that searches will continue. until Saturday.
Emergency authorities sent SMS alerts overnight to residents living in Galati and Tulcea counties after detecting what the Defense Ministry called “groups of drones heading towards Ukrainian territory.” near the border.
In recent weeks, Romania has found drone fragments from the neighboring war on its soil at least three times, as Russian forces carried out sustained attacks on Ukraine’s Danube ports.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that it had shot down nine Ukrainian rockets fired at its southern region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine. Local authorities in Russia’s Bryansk region, which also borders Ukraine, reported power supply disruptions following an unspecified attack on the town of Pogar. Drone strikes and bombings in Russian border regions are commonplace.
AP writers Stephen McGrath in Sighisoara, Romania, and Elise Morton in London contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine