Four Occupied Ukrainian Provinces Call for Russia Adherence Referendums

The four provinces of eastern and southern Ukraine that Russian forces occupied announced today that they will hold referendums between September 23-27 to join the Russian Federation, which was described as a “farce” and “parody” by Ukraine and Western powers. allies.

The announcements of the holding of referendums from Friday in the eastern Donetsk, Lugansk and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhia came after one of the officials closest to President Vladimir Putin supported the votes, almost seven months after the start of the Russian invasion from Ukraine.

Former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev hinted that the integration of new territories into Russia will make the end of US hegemony “irreversible” and allow Moscow to use “any means of legitimate defense”, which was understood as an allusion to nuclear weapons.

The four provinces are partially or totally occupied by the Russian Army, and their control assures Russia the possession and defense of the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea -which was annexed in 2014-, which, increasingly, seems to have been the central objective. of the invasion of Ukraine.

All four are contiguous, stretching from western Russia to Crimea. Kherson, the first to be captured by the Russian Army, is the only Ukrainian province that borders Crimea. From west to east, they are followed, in order, by Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Lugansk, which is the one that borders Russia.

Crimea is vital to Russia’s security and geopolitical strategy because it anchors its Black Sea fleet there and gives it another access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Donetsk and Lugansk make up the Donbass region, where Russian-speaking Ukrainian separatists took up arms against the government in 2014 and founded people’s “republics,” whose liberation Putin cited as the central goal of the invasion.

In Donetsk, Ukrainian separatist leader Denis Pushilin said “the long-suffering people of Donbass have earned the right to be part of the great country they always considered their homeland.”

He added that the popular consultations will serve to “restore the historical justice that millions of Russians are waiting for.”

The announcements come a week after Russia withdrew its forces from positions in Ukraine’s northeastern border province of Kharkov, which borders Luhansk to the south.

Kharkov is not among the provinces that Russia has said it wants to control, but the territories it occupied there were needed to protect the rear of an offensive launched in April that brought it under control of almost all of Donbass.

In fact, in the last two months Russia has withdrawn many of its best-equipped units, including from the Donbass, to position them in Kherson and Zaporizhia, along the new de facto border that has been created between Russia and Ukraine by the occupation. Russian of the four provinces.

Ukraine has also advanced its most experienced troops and its best weapons received from the United States and other countries towards this new unofficial border and has launched rather specific attacks, which it describes as a counteroffensive, with which it has recovered some areas of Kherson.

It is taken for granted that the result of the referendums will be in favor of joining Russia, but also that the vast majority of the international community will not recognize them, just as it did not recognize the annexation of Crimea.

“These referendums are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said today.

“The United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to any allegedly annexed part of Ukraine,” he added, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Along the same lines, French President Emmanuel Macron described the announcement of referendums as a “parody” and said that “they will have no legal consequences.”

“The only thing that exists is the war decided by Russia, the resistance of Ukraine and the end of the war that we want,” added the French president, who will meet with Putin “in the coming days.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the Russian-installed authorities’ plans a “farce” and added: “It is very clear that these referendums cannot be accepted and are not protected by international law.”

“False referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This is a new escalation in Putin’s war,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO), on Twitter.

In another sign that Russia is preparing for a long conflict, the lower house of the Russian parliament today approved tougher laws against defection, surrender and looting by Russian soldiers.

Duma deputies also voted to introduce sentences of up to 10 years in prison for soldiers who refuse to fight.

The spokesman for Putin and the Russian government, Dmitri Peskov, said today that there is no prospect of a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Ukraine.

Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said on the Telegram messaging app that the referendums “are of great importance not only for the systemic protection of the inhabitants, but also for the restoration of historical justice.”

“Invading the territory of Russia is a crime and if it is committed, it allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” he added.

According to Medvedev, “the geopolitical transformation of the world will be irreversible” after the “integration of new territories” in Russia, the AFP news agency reported.

“That is why these referendums are so feared in kyiv and in the West. That is why they should be held,” he said.

Ukraine assured that the Russian threat will be “liquidated”.

“Ukraine is going to solve the Russian question. The threat can only be liquidated by force,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Telegram, and assured that Ukraine will “continue to liberate its territories, whatever Russia says.”

The Ukrainian separatists of Donetsk and Lugansk founded in 2014 “people’s republics” in the territories they control, whose independence was recognized by Putin days before launching the invasion of Ukraine, on February 24 last.

Upon receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to Russia today, Putin promised to continue his “sovereign” policy and denounced the will of the United States for “hegemony.”

Kherson is controlled almost entirely by Russia. It has authorities installed by Russia and in it the ruble, the Russian currency, is legal tender. Russia occupies the southern half of Zaporizhia, including a city that is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The Zaporizhia nuclear plant has been the target of attacks since July of which Ukraine and Russia accuse each other. (Telam)

Four Occupied Ukrainian Provinces Call for Russia Adherence Referendums