The parliaments of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, recognized by the Kremlin last February, announced on Tuesday the call for a referendum to become part of Russia to be held from September 23 to 27. Shortly after, the authorities installed by Russia in the Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhia and Kherson (southeast) have also joined the announcement.
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“Are you in favor of the entry of the Luhansk People’s Republic into the Russian Federation as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation?”, is the question that the participants in the consultation will have to answer, according to the information center of the separatist republic of Luhansk.
For his part, in a letter addressed to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the leader of the Donetsk separatists, Denís Pushilin, has asked him to “study as soon as possible, in case the referendum decision is positive, the matter of the entry of the Donetsk People’s Republic into the Russian Federation”. Pushilin has indicated that he has no doubts that the result will be in favor of the union with Russia.
The president of the pro-Russian legislature in Lugansk, Denís Miroshnichenko, explained that the consultation will last five days in order to guarantee the necessary conditions for voters, members of electoral commissions, observers and journalists.
The advisory bodies of Donetsk and Lugansk addressed their leaders on Monday to call “urgently” these plebiscites. “Today we receive requests from public cameras. This is nothing more than a reflection of the opinion of our people, something that has been in the air for a long time,” Pushilin said.
Vyacheslav Volodin, head of Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has said his chamber would support Lugansk and Donetsk’s accession to Russia if they voted in favor, Reuters reports. “We have to support the republics with which we have signed mutual assistance agreements,” he added.
The head of the Russian-installed Kherson authority, Vladimir Saldo, said Tuesday that he hopes that, after the referendum, Kherson will become “a part of Russia, a full-fledged subject of a united country.” Through Telegram, Saldo has said that Kherson’s accession to Russia would “secure” the region and would be a “triumph of historical justice.” “I am sure that the Russian leadership will accept the results of the referendum.”
On the other hand, the head of the military civil administration of the occupied region of Zaporizhia, Yevhen Balitsky, announced on Tuesday the approval of a regulation for the holding of the accession referendum, which will also be from September 23 to 27. According to the Russian agency interfaceBalitsky has said that a national congress of citizens of the Zaporizhia region had previously been held in Melitopol on Tuesday, in which its participants adopted an appeal to the civil-military administration demanding a referendum.
Before the announcements of the call for referendums, Dmitri Medvedev, former Russian president and current vice president of the Security Council, has indicated that the result of these votes would be irreversible and would give Moscow carte blanche to defend what it would legally consider its own territory.
Medvedev has stated that “an invasion against the territory of Russia is a crime, and its commission allows the use of all self-defense forces.” “After the constitutional reform, no future leader of Russia, no official will be able to reverse these decisions”, he added, pointing out that “it is precisely for this reason that in kyiv and in the West they fear these referendums so much”. “Precisely for this reason it is necessary to carry them out.”
“It won’t change anything”
The Ukrainian presidency has described as “blackmail” the call for a referendum launched from the self-proclaimed separatist republic of Lugansk and has promised that it will “eliminate” this Russian threat, arising from the “fear of defeat”.
“The enemy is afraid and manipulates primitively,” said the head of the Presidency cabinet, Andriy Yermak, through his Telegram account. Yermak has accused Russia of resorting to threats such as referendum calls and the general mobilization of Russian men and of knowing how to fight only against “children and civilians”. However, he has said, Ukraine will “solve” the Russian problem and stressed that “threats” from Moscow can only be eliminated “by force”.
For his part, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said that the “pseudo-referendum” will not change anything, just as any kind of mobilization will not. “Russia is and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukraine”, he has written on his Twitter account, adding that for this reason kyiv will “continue to liberate” the territories from her regardless of what Moscow says.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president has warned the citizens of these regions that “any participation in ‘referendums’ will be considered an attack on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
For his part, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared that the votes announced on Tuesday “have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression.” “This is a further escalation in Putin’s war,” he added.
The people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk have decided to accelerate the organization of the plebiscites after the Ukrainian counteroffensive forced the Russian Army to cede territory.
The Ukrainian authorities in Lugansk say that their forces have taken the town of Bilohorivka, on the border between Lugansk and Donetsk. According to British intelligence, any substantial loss of territory in the Luhansk region, whose control Russia claimed in early July, would undermine the Kremlin’s strategy in Ukraine.
The Russian withdrawal from the Kharkov region on September 8 has been accompanied by the advance in Donbas of the Ukrainian troops, who have crossed the strategic Oskil River.
However, the Russian president last Friday ruled out a change of strategy in eastern Ukraine after the Kremlin also rejected a possible general mobilization after criticism from some politicians and regional leaders about the pressing lack of soldiers on the front.