Four Occupied Ukrainian Provinces Hold Russia Annexation Referendums
Four Ukrainian provinces occupied or partially occupied by the Russians, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, have been holding referendums on annexation to Russia since this Friday, consultations that have been rejected as illegal in almost the whole world except in Moscow. Held without the minimum conditions of legality, in a country at war and in regions where the supporters of the consultations do not have total control of the territory, it is expected that the results, which will not be recognized by almost anyone in the world, will be favorable to the incorporation into Russia, which, from that moment, will consider any Ukrainian attack as an attack on its own territory, which would justify the use of any type of weapon.
After months of announcements, the referendums were hastily rushed this past Tuesday, with requests from the pro-Russian legislative assemblies to the leaders of the pro-Russian authorities, who responded with immediate calls. These will be held from this Friday until Tuesday in the provinces that make up the Donbas, Lugansk and Donetsk region, in the east, and in those of Kherson and Zaporizhia, in the south of the country. Together they account for about 15% of the surface of Ukraine. Mikolaiv province, also in the south, will also announce a similar consultation shortly.
The referendums are being held as Ukrainian forces maintain powerful military offensives that are allowing them to recapture occupied territory in both the east and south. Faced with the advance of the Ukrainian troops, Moscow reacted with the express convening of these consultations, which will allow it to annex the provinces and consider them part of its territory. In parallel and to defend it, in addition, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, decreed on Wednesday the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to send them to fight in Ukraine, a very unpopular movement that he had resisted since the beginning of the invasion. The announcement unleashed a wave of protests in the streets and the flight of thousands of people from the country across land borders and by plane. “If all this is declared Russian territory, they can declare that [la ofensiva ucrania] it is a direct attack on Russia so they can fight without restrictions,” Sergei Haidai, the (pro-Ukrainian) governor of the Luhansk region, told Ukrainian television on Thursday.
“Since the beginning of the operation [militar especial, como denomina el Kremlin la invasión ilegal de Ucrania] we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their destiny, and the current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their destiny,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this week. Russia intends to take the result of the consultations – no one doubts that it will be overwhelmingly in favor of annexation – as a sign of popular support – the provinces of Donbas have a pro-Russian majority and their alleged “persecution” by the kyiv government is the excuse for Moscow for the invasion—and use it as a pretext for the annexation of the territories, as it did in Crimea in 2014, an annexation that is not recognized by the international community.
Meanwhile, the EU, the US, the UK, NATO, the OECD, the UN and the vast majority of the international community condemn the consultations, which they call a “farce” and have announced throughout the week that they will “never” they are going to recognize their results”, even less considering that they are going to be held without the minimum international standards, without a census, without international observers, in regions at war in which control is in dispute, with many of the possible voters mobilized in combat or on the run.
Accusing Ukrainian soldiers of “barbaric” attacks on civilians in their offensive, pro-Russian Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin said on Thursday that “this is why we want to act quickly and with great determination with measures such as the holding of referendums. We have been waiting for it for a long time, dreaming about it and it is finally going to happen.”