10 things you need to know today: September 23, 2022

Russian-backed separatists launch annexation referendums in four Ukrainian regions, special master tells Trump lawyers to back up any planted-evidence claims, and more

Russia referendum in Ukraine's Donetsk province
(Image credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Russia-backed separatists begin annexation referendums in 4 Ukrainian regions

Russia and pro-Kremlin separatists who largely control four Ukrainian provinces starting holding referendums Friday on joining Russia. The voting will continue to Tuesday. The West and Kyiv have condemned the votes as a "sham." Moscow has indicated the referendums will serve as justification for it to annex the areas, as it did Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The United States and other Western allies say annexation of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces, which account for about 15 percent of Ukraine's territory, would be illegal and invalid. Russian-installed leaders announced plans for the balloting earlier this week as Ukraine continued to expand a counteroffensive that has pushed Russian forces out of parts of Ukraine they seized early in the invasion.

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