At the same time as the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the embattled Cherson region in the south also wants to have a vote on joining Russia. Ukraine reacts calmly.
In view of the Ukrainian offensive, Russia is trying to tie the internationally unrecognized “People’s Republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk in the east of the country and the Cherson region in the south to itself through mock referendums. The regions announced on Tuesday that the population should vote on joining the Russian Federation this week.
After Russia’s defeat in the fighting for the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, Moscow and the separatists obviously want to prevent further losses. Russia had already recognized the regions as independent states in February 2022. In the occupied territories, therefore, an official vote on joining Russia is now to be held. The mock referendums, which neither Ukraine nor the international community will recognize, are scheduled to be held from September 23-27.
Similarly, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014. The vote was not recognized internationally. This time, too, recognition is not in sight. It describes why the position of “people’s republics” is already fundamentally problematic and why this problem increased with participation in Russia’s open war of aggression against Ukraine Prof. Dr. Stefan Oeter in his LTO-Contribution.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had called for accession referendums in the Moscow-held areas of Ukraine to be irrevocably annexed to Russia. “After its implementation and the inclusion of the new territories in the structure of Russia, the geopolitical transformation in the world will take on an irreversible character,” he wrote on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.
Did Putin’s failure lead to the new plan?
After the accession of the territories, Russia could use “all means of self-protection”. Russian commentators pointed out that this includes nuclear weapons. Russian political scientist Tatyana Stanovaya said that Putin decided to hold accession referendums after his original plans to seize the territories quickly failed. Once the territories have been included, he has the option of defending the territories under the threat of using nuclear weapons.
In view of the recent Ukrainian advance, the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk had called for such “coordination” to be held quickly. Russia justified its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 with the “liberation” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, among other things. First, the Russian military was able to conquer large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.
Most recently, however, the Kremlin had to accept a serious defeat, the Russian troops withdrew almost completely from the Kharkiv region after Ukrainian attacks. State propaganda warned of a possible devastating defeat in the war.
Ukraine reacts calmly
The Kremlin could now rely on being able to use the referenda to mobilize the population domestically – possibly even by declaring a state of defense. The Russian military in Ukraine is currently suffering from a shortage of personnel. The soldiers deployed on a contract basis do not have sufficient resources for the war, which is still called “military special operations” in Moscow.
Ukraine reacted calmly. “Neither the pseudo referendums nor the hybrid mobilization will change anything,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. Ukraine will continue to liberate its territory no matter what is said in Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently sided with Moscow, has also called for the territories occupied by Russia to be returned to Ukraine. “Of course, if peace is to be established in Ukraine, the return of the occupied land will be really important. That is expected,” Erdogan said in an interview published by the US broadcaster PBS on Monday evening. Likewise, the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia, must be returned to Ukraine.
At the same time as the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the embattled Cherson region in the south also wants to have a vote on joining Russia.