A referendum for a formal Russian annexation of territories occupied in Ukraine will be held between the 23rd and 27th of this month. The annexation vote, which was originally expected to take place in November, appears to have been pushed forward as the offense of Ukraine’s territorial recapture intensified.
According to foreign media such as Reuters on the 20th (local time), the administrations of the Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine decided to hold a referendum on the annexation of Russia from the 23rd to the 27th of this month. The target area is all Russian-occupied territory, including the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), where pro-Russian forces declared independence in eastern Ukraine, as well as the southern provinces of Zaporiza and Kherson. The DPR and the LPR are republics declared by pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in 2014, and Russia recognized their independence shortly before the invasion of Ukraine. Zaporiza and Kherson provinces were largely occupied shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
The head of DPR Dennis Pucillin said, “Donbass is returning home. “The right time has come,” he said. The DPR Senate immediately passed the bill unanimously. Pushilin has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to approve the incorporation of the DPR into Russian territory as soon as possible if the vote is positive.
LPR head Leonid Pasenchik, pro-Russian Zaporiza government head Yevgeny Balitzki and pro-Russian Kherson government head Vladimir Saldo also announced similar plans.
Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Russian House of Representatives (State Duma), said he would support the decision if citizens wanted to join Russia. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also said on the voting decision: “The current situation shows that they want to become masters of their own destiny.”
Initially, it was expected that this vote would be held on ‘National Unity Day’ on November 4th. However, as Ukraine recently recaptured most of eastern Kharkiv and threatened Kherson and Luhansk provinces, the voting schedule appears to have been pushed back.
Ukraine and the West say they will not accept Russia’s referendum plan, saying it is illegal and highly likely to be manipulated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that if Russia holds a fake referendum, all opportunities for dialogue will be cut off. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also condemned the Russian referendum as an act of undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty.