Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Blinken calls Moscow’s referendum attempts a ‘sham’; Zelenskiy to speak at UN

Welcome back to our live coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m Tess McClure and will be liveblogging this morning. At 7.45am Kyiv time, these are the latest developments.

The proxy Russian authorities in four occupied areas of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – announced on Tuesday their intentions to hold referendums between 23-27 September on joining the Russian Federation, a move that could sharply escalate the war.

Russia president Vladimir Putin is expected to address the Russian nation this morning. He is expected to make the televised speech, covering new annexations of Ukrainian territory, at 7am UK time.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video address released early on Wednesday, said in relation to the referendums: “Our position does not change according to this noise or any other announcement”. Kyiv said the “sham” referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced. Zelenskiy will speak to the UN general assembly by video-link on Wednesday.

The White House rejected Russia’s plans to hold the referendums, adding that Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in those areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield. Jake Sullivan, president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Severa