Two Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia later this week and an ally of President Vladimir Putin has said the votes will alter the geopolitical landscape in favour of Moscow’s for good.
The move, which seriously has escalated the Kremlin’s standoff with the West, comes after Russia suffered a battlefield reversal in northeast Ukraine and as the country’s strongman Vladimir Putin ponders his next steps in this nearly seven-month conflict that has caused the most significant East-West rift since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) announced the planned referendums to be held between September 23 and 27.
“I ask you, as soon as possible… to consider the DPR becoming a part of Russia,” DPR head Denis Pushilin wrote on social media in his post addressed to Vladimir Putin.
The regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south have announced that they will hold a referendum on Russia's annexation on September 23-27. pic.twitter.com/nB3mi05oK5— xuan khanh le (@xuankhanhle1) September 20, 2022
Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president who is currently deputy chairman of the Security Council, suggested prior to the announcements that the outcome of this kind of voting would be irreversible and give Moscow - holding the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world - a carte blanche to be defending what it would regard then as legally its own territory.
⚡️ISW: Russian proxies' urgent calls to join Russia causing panic.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) September 20, 2022
The Institute for the Study of War said Russian proxies' calls to immediately annex Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts "is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers."
Vyacheslav Volodin, the head of Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said that his chamber would support the two regions joining Russia if they voted to do so.
Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization’. Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) September 20, 2022
Later on Tuesday, Russian news agencies reported the vote would take place between September 23 and 27, in line with similar voting lined up for the LPR and DPR.
�� Gauleiter Saldo said that a decision had been made to hold a "referendum" on the accession of the #Kherson region to #Russia.— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) September 20, 2022
Yeah-Yeah, hold your "referendum" when the Armed Forces of #Ukraine have almost come to Kherson. pic.twitter.com/guRGbjhXdm