October 5, 2022

Occupied parts of Ukraine vote on joining Russia in ‘sham’ referendums

4 min read

The referendums, which are illegal under international law, could pave the way for Russian annexation of the territories, allowing Moscow to frame Ukraine’s ongoing counterattack as an attack on Russia itself.

Such a move could give Moscow an excuse to escalate its faltering war, which has seen Kyiv reclaim thousands of square miles of territory this month.

In a speech on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about nuclear weapons in his speech, saying he would use “all means at our disposal” if they threaten Russia’s “territorial integrity.” .

The vote, expected to take place over five days, was called by pro-Russian authorities in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and in the Russian-held regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south, which had questions on the ballot. Varies slightly by region. Together, the four regions cover about 18% of Ukraine’s territory.

The plans, which are being carried out under military occupation and are being carried out effectively at gunpoint, have been strongly condemned as “a sham” by both the Ukrainian government and its allies in the West. has gone The European Union has said it will not recognize the findings and has signaled it is preparing a new package of sanctions against Russia.

Putin backed the referendum in an address to the nation on Wednesday.

A service member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic passes a banner at a polling station ahead of a referendum scheduled for September 22.

“The parliaments of the People’s Republic of Donbass and the civil-military administration of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions have decided to hold a referendum on the future of these regions. They have asked Russia to support this initiative, and we have stressed that We will do everything. To ensure safe conditions for people to express their will,” he said.

In both Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, local authorities have urged people to vote from home, saying ballot boxes can be brought to them.

Ahead of the vote, pro-Russian officials have tried to galvanize voters. Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti showed a poster being distributed in Luhansk. It reads, “Russia is the future.”

It says “We are united by a thousand years of history. “For centuries, we were part of one great country. The collapse of the state was a huge political disaster. … It is time to restore historical justice.”

Observers say such a hasty process, in areas where many voters live close to the front lines of the conflict, may be successful or fair. Furthermore, due to large-scale internal displacement since the beginning of the conflict, voting databases are likely to be out of date. In Kherson, for example, Ukrainian officials say about half of the pre-war population has left.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which oversees the election, condemned it as an “illegal referendum”.

“Any so-called ‘referendum’ planned by or with the support of forces illegally exercising de facto control over the occupied territories of Ukraine is illegal under international standards and international humanitarian law. The obligations would be inconsistent, and therefore of no legal consequence, said the OSCE, which monitors elections in 57 member states.

A referendum held in Crimea in 2014, in which 97 percent of voters formally rejected annexation, was ratified by Russian lawmakers within a week.

This time, some regions are planning to declare results sooner than others. Officials in Luhansk said they would announce the results the day after voting ended, while officials in Kherson would wait five days after polls closed.

Earlier this week, pro-Russian officials in the occupied territories signaled that a possible vote would be postponed due to the security situation — as Ukrainian forces move aggressively into Donetsk and parts of Zaporizhia. There are, and Russian positions and supply lines in Kherson will come. Under almost daily attacks from Ukrainian artillery.

Had a sudden and syncopated change of heart earlier this week.

Russian politicians have since been quick to offer their support, noting that when the territories join Russia — assuming the vote is in favor — they are under Moscow’s full protection. will be entitled.

Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev has said that Russia has a duty to protect these territories and that any attack on them would be considered an attack on Russia “with all its consequences”.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and deputy chairman of Russia’s National Security Council, was more specific, saying it would be of “huge importance” for the “systemic security” of residents and any weapons in Moscow’s arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons. Weapons can be used. Defending territories annexed by Ukraine from Russia.

“Occupying Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” Medvedev said.

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