22 minutes ago
On the 20th (local time), four Russian-controlled places in Ukraine – Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporiza – called for an emergency referendum for annexation from Russia.
In recent months, Russian forces have been stagnant and Ukrainian forces have recaptured much of the territory in the north-east. As a result, pro-Russian forces in the east and south have come forward to implement a vote on the immediate annexation of Russia starting this week.
Despite criticism from the international community, Russia has a history of annexing Crimea in the 2014 Russian annexation referendum.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to give a public address on the evening of the 20th, but a Kremlin source said the date of the speech had been postponed to a later date and the exact reason was unknown.
On the same day (20th), Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleva said, “These stupid ‘directions’ will not change anything.”
Although the international community has never recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it is clear that Russia is trying to acquire other occupied maps in the same way.
There are also concerns that Russia’s annexation of more regions within Ukraine in this way could give Russia an excuse to claim that NATO weapons are attacking its territory.
Amid speculation that Russia could issue a massive mobilization order to bolster its presence in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has approved stronger penalties for crimes such as desertion, destruction of military property, and mobilization orders and disobedience during combat operations.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian National Security Council, said on the 20th that holding a referendum in the Donbas region, which refers to the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, would set “historical justice” right.
“If the Russian constitution is even amended, no future Russian leader or bureaucrat will be able to reverse this decision,” he said.
Shortly afterwards, the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)’ and ‘Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR)’, declared by pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region, announced that they would hold a referendum on the 23rd and 27th. On February 21, three days before Russia invaded Ukraine in earnest, President Putin recognized the two powers as independent states.
The Russian administration in the southern Kherson region has also announced it will hold a referendum, with similar plans in the Russian-occupied Zaporiza region.
Russian state media reported that residents would be able to vote in person or remotely.
Over the past few months, Russian-established administrative authorities have been trying to hold a self-proclaimed “referendum”. However, there is no hope that such a vote will be held freely and fairly, and as the war drags on, attempts to annex territories not fully under Russian control also seem unrealistic.
In addition, the Ukrainian counter-offensive has made it increasingly difficult to hold voting.
In fact, Russia has occupied most of Lugansk Oblast since July, but on the 19th, the Ukrainian military leader in Lugansk announced that it had recaptured Vilohorivka.
Although Russia has occupied the Azov coast, most of Donetsk is still controlled by the Ukraine.
In addition, although Russia quickly occupied Kherson at the beginning of the war, Ukrainian forces also managed to recover some territories from Kherson, and the Russian-established administrative authorities remain under attack. In response, Kherson attempted to hold a referendum on the recent annexation of Russia, but it was postponed.
In Zaporiza, most of the territory, including the capital Zaporiza, is still controlled by the Ukraine.
However, the international community widely recognizes that the 2014 vote was illegal, and the Russian military continues to rule Crimea despite the rejection of many residents.
The Ukrainian army is now not far from Donetsk, and the pro-Russian mayor of Donetsk said on the 19th that at least 13 people were killed in the artillery fire in Ukraine.
As Russia tries to annex territories controlled by Ukraine, the Ukrainian leadership will be angry, and hopes of finding a negotiated solution are getting slimmer.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian defense adviser Oleksi Kopitko said the voting plan was “a sign of hysteria” from Russia. That same night, President Volodymyr Zelensky also said that “the occupants are clearly in a state of panic.”
In addition, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it “absurd,” and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned it as “self-interested behavior” and “provocative”, which would certainly not be recognized by the community international. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said it was illegal and “an escalating form of Putin’s war”.
Tatiana Stanovaya, a famous Russian expert analyst, said that the move was a “clear ultimatum” from Russia to Ukraine and the West, and if it did not respond appropriately, Russia could mobilize all its forces in the war.
If the territories were annexed, they could demand the right to use arms to defend what they consider to be their territory.
In some regions of Russia, there are increasing calls to mobilize troops. Putin still describes the war as a “special military operation”.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is likely to support holding a referendum in the occupied territories. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “From the beginning of the war, Russia has wanted the people to decide.