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A referendum in Russian -occupied Ukraine as Zelenskyy denies vehemently

Ukrainians have reported armed soldiers going door-to-door in occupied parts of the country to collect votes for self-styled "referendums" on joining Russia. Experts say the self-styled referendums, taking place across five days, will allow Russia to claim - illegally - four occupied or partially-occupied regions of Ukraine as their own.

On the contrary, the Ukrainian authorities have assured that pseudo-voting will neither affect the status quo nor render any repercussion on the battlefront, and the counteroffensive will continue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is anticipating a hike in defence allocation over the next two years in the wake of a protracted and increasingly expensive war in Ukraine.

Defence expenditure is expected to exceed initial budget estimates by the next year to the tune of nearly 43% amounting to approx. 5 trillion rubles ($ 84 billion), or 3.3 % of GDP, and is now second only to government social programmes.

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