Other possible sanctions against Russia if it keeps organizing referendums

Other possible sanctions against Russia if it keeps organizing referendums

The European Union said on Tuesday (20 September) that it would not recognize the result and would prepare potential new sanctions against Russia should Moscow hold a referendum on annexation in the occupied eastern regions of Ukraine.

Pro-Russian officials in the self-proclaimed separatist “republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk and in the occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine have announced “referendums” on joining Russia will be held September 23-27.

The move is likely to lead to a sharp escalation of the war as the votes are illegal under Ukrainian and international law and have been strongly condemned by Western officials as a sham and a mere precursor to annexation.

Millions of Ukrainians living in the occupied territories fled abroad or were internally displaced.

«These illegal “votes” can in no way be considered as free expression of the people living in these regions under constant Russian military threat and intimidation.Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said in a statement.

«Russia, its political leaders and all those involved in these “referendums” and other violations of international law in Ukraine will be held accountable and additional restrictive measures against Russia will be consideredadded Mr. Borrell.

«This is an attempt by Russia to legitimize its illegal military control and forcibly alter Ukraine’s borders in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity“, he added.

The provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory.

Moscow already considers the entire territory of Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbass region partially occupied by Moscow in 2014, as independent states, while Ukraine and the West illegally occupy all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces, including the Crimean peninsula regard .

Putin recently declared in Samarkand that the capture of the entire provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk was Russia’s main goal, apparently curtailing that military ambition after his invading forces were defeated on the outskirts of Kyiv in March. Russia now owns about 60% of Donetsk and by July had captured almost all of Luhansk.

However, the recent advance of the Ukrainian army in the Izyum region is causing a headache for Russia, as the same forces could soon march on Luhansk.

Raise the stakes

Experts say the Kremlin hopes the United States and the West will refrain from sending more long-range weapons to Ukraine because their use against areas Russia considers its own could trigger an all-out war with unpredictable consequences.

Some pro-Kremlin figures have openly presented the referendums as an ultimatum for the West to accept Russian territorial gains or face an all-out war with a nuclear-armed enemy.

«The encroachment on Russian territory is a crime that allows the use of all self-defense forcesDmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and current deputy chairman of President Vladimir Putin’s Security Council, said on social media.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the planned votes “new escalation” of the war.

«Bogus referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine‘ he explained.

Following a possible annexation of these areas, Western diplomats fear that Moscow will declare Ukrainian attacks on these areas as aggression against Russia itself, which could trigger a general military mobilization or a more dangerous escalation that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.

«The Russians can do whatever they want. It won’t change anythingsaid Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in response to reporters’ questions at the United Nations in New York.

«Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to liberate them no matter what Russia says.‘ he later added in a tweet.

Trigger for new sanctions?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has passed more than six packages of sanctions: asset freezes and visa bans on Russian oligarchs and officials, export controls, asset freezes by central banks, decoupling of banks from the SWIFT messaging system, and an import ban on Russian-language coal and Oil.

In response to Moscow’s admission of the sham referendums, a new round of EU sanctions could likely include more lists of people involved in organizing and running the referenda, an EU official told EURACTIV.

The measures could include steps similar to those already implemented before the February invasion, namely sanctioning local officials and prohibiting trade, tourism and financing of annexed areas.

Other sectoral sanctions could also be on the table, but the EU official added that it was difficult to predict whether unanimity could be reached on this point.

«It really depends on what member states want, but referendums and massacres like the one in Izyum could lead to a seventh package‘ he explained.

Several EU diplomats, meanwhile, told EURACTIV they see little chance of another sanctions package, especially as Hungary is likely to veto or delay such efforts.

On Tuesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó urged EU officials to avoid discussing further sanctions against Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, repeating warnings that such measures would further damage the bloc.

blame from the West

French President Emmanuel Macron and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda used the word “travesty” to describe the planned votes before the UN General Assembly.

«If the idea of ​​a referendum in Donbass wasn’t so tragic, it would be funnyMacron told reporters in New York, adding that the referendum proposals for eastern Ukraine are another provocation after Russia invaded its neighbor.

«I think what was announced by Russia is a farcesaid Mr Macron. “This is cynicism and obviously not recognized by the international community.».

A spokesman for Mr Nauseda quoted the Lithuanian President as saying: “Those regions are and will remain Ukraine, and Russia’s sham referendums are illegal. Lithuania will never recognize them. »

Speaking to the UN Assembly on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the Russian invasion as deeply destabilizing for the international order.

«Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is behavior that tramples on the philosophy and principles of the United Nations Charter (…) It can never be toleratedsaid Mr. Kishida.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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