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WASHINGTON — Russia seems to be making ready to annex two areas in japanese Ukraine and in all probability a 3rd within the nation’s south, a senior American diplomat mentioned on Monday, bringing up “extremely credible” studies of Moscow’s plans.

Michael Wood worker, the American ambassador to the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe, mentioned that the Kremlin would most likely level “sham” elections within the Russian-backed separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in mid-Might to officially take hold of keep watch over of each.

The ambassador would now not specify the foundation of those studies or how he used to be ready to make this type of prediction.

A identical referendum in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, may apply, he mentioned. The Russian language is dominant in all 3 spaces.

“That is immediately out of the Kremlin’s playbook,” Mr. Wood worker informed journalists on the State Division on Monday.

He mentioned it used to be now not positive that Russia would in the long run transfer to annex any of the areas, a lot much less achieve success in doing so, however that “that is the making plans that we’re seeing.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia identified the independence of the so-called Donetsk Other folks’s Republic and Luhansk Other folks’s Republic a couple of days sooner than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in overdue February. Moscow-backed separatists within the areas had been preventing in opposition to Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Mr. Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 simply hours after 97 p.c of electorate in a referendum there authorized seceding from Ukraine. The vote used to be criticized as fraudulent, and far of the arena has since refused to acknowledge Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation.

Mr. Wood worker mentioned it used to be additionally imaginable that Russia’s leaders would attempt to take over different portions of Ukraine, by way of implementing “puppets and proxies” in native governments and forcing out democratically elected officers. He mentioned that this had gave the impression to be Moscow’s preliminary purpose in Kyiv — a plan that integrated putting in a brand new charter in Ukraine — however that Russian forces were pressured to drop again to the rustic’s east and south when they had been not able to take the capital.

Now, he mentioned, Moscow seems intent on implementing its college curriculum, foreign money and native management in spaces the place Russian forces are suspected of abducting political warring parties, educators and reporters, and slicing off web services and products to isolate citizens from impartial resources of data.

Mr. Wood worker stated there used to be little that the O.S.C.E. may do to prevent Russia, even supposing he cited efforts by way of the West and different global allies to hammer Moscow with financial sanctions and diplomatic isolation. He mentioned the group used to be running to distribute humanitarian aid to Ukrainian individuals who had been wounded within the conflict or pressured from their properties since Russia invaded, and used to be serving to to report conflict crimes and different human rights abuses for long run prosecutions.

“A part of what we’re seeking to do is to reveal Russia’s intentions,” Mr. Wood worker mentioned, including that “sadly, now we have been extra proper than incorrect in exposing what we consider could also be coming subsequent.”

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