Ukraine: Pro-Russians urgently call “referendums” on annexation by Russia
Moscow-installed authorities in four regions of Ukraine on Tuesday announced urgent holding of “referendums” on Russia’s annexation from September 23-27 amid a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The Ukrainian presidency has vowed to “liquidate” the Russian threat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with foreign diplomats and defense industry officials later in the day, meaning he would stay the course.
Commentators raised the specter of nuclear war if Russia annexed these areas and the Kremlin then believed the war was taking place on its soil.
The separatist powers of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions announced these votes, as did the Russian occupation authorities of Kherson and Zaporiya (south). These elections, scheduled for this week, will take place as Ukraine enters its 8th month of war.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided that “these fake referendums are not acceptable”. The United States has denounced “sham” elections.
French President Emmanuel Macron lashed out at the United Nations General Assembly for “a return to the age of imperialism and colonies” shortly after calling the promised polls a “parody”.
These votes, denounced by Kyiv and the West, along the lines of those formalized by Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula (south), have been the subject of preparations for several months.
The schedule seems to have accelerated with the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which forced the Russian army to withdraw to the north-east of the country. Russian officials had previously named November 4 as the Day of Russian National Unity.
Separatist leaders in Luhansk were the first to announce that elections would be held this week over four days, starting on Friday.
They were followed by the Donetsk separatist leader and the occupation leaders of Kherson and Zaporizhia. Everyone urged Mr. Putin to accept the results of the vote.
– “Blackmail” and Russian reversals –
Ukraine on Tuesday warned the Russian threat would be “liquidated,” head of Ukraine’s presidential administration Andriï Iermak, denouncing Russian “blackmail” motivated “out of fear of defeat.”
For his part, the head of diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, assured that Ukraine would “further liberate its country”.
The announcements come after Russian setbacks in early September, when the Moscow army pulled out of the Kharkiv region amid pressure from Kiev forces, which have heavy supplies of western weapons and equipment.
Russian diplomacy has also told the French ambassador in Moscow that the continuation of arms deliveries to Ukraine is “unacceptable”.
The Ukrainian army is also launching a counter-offensive towards the Kherson Oblast to the south and another towards the Lugansk Oblast, which Moscow fully captured in the spring after months of deadly fighting.
Kyiv is therefore hoping to recapture the village of Bilogorivka, which Russia paid a heavy price to capture in May when its forces were decimated trying to cross the Siverskiï Donets River there. Images of the destroyed tanks went around the world.
Twenty kilometers away from Seversk, Ukrainian artillery bombarded Russian positions.
“It hits very hard,” Natalia, a grocer in that city, told AFP, “in the morning when we come out of the basements, we see the burned houses.”
In the village, exhausted Ukrainian artillerymen are resting on their self-propelled guns covered by a tree. “We shot all night, we go to reload (ammunition, editor’s note) and then come back,” said one of them.
– nuclear weapon –
At a meeting on Tuesday with arms manufacturers and security officials, Mr Putin called for an “acceleration of production capacities” in order to “supply the necessary weapons” to his army “as soon as possible”.
As he accepted the credentials of the new ambassadors, he insisted on the merits of his “sovereign” foreign policy.
At the same time, the lower house of the Russian parliament passed a text significantly increasing prison sentences for soldiers who surrender, desert, or loot.
On Tuesday morning, former President Dmitry Medvedev and current number two of Russia’s Security Council ruled that the “referendums” on the annexation would restore “historical justice,” with the Kremlin considering Ukraine historically Russian.
“Trespassing on the territory of Russia is a crime and if committed, it allows you to use all forces in self-defense,” he threatened.
For independent Russian analyst Tatyana Stanovaya, stopping these votes means that Putin “wants to claim the right to use nuclear weapons in defense of Russian territory.”
Margarita Simonian, the head of the Russian RT television channel, judged that this week will either be “the antechamber of our forthcoming victory” or that of “nuclear war”.
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