Russia Hurries to Annex Occupied Ukraine Amid Kyiv’s Gains
- Four Russia-occupied regions announce referendum plans
- Votes will be held from Sept. 23-27
- Ukraine and the West regard votes as sham and illegal
Kyiv: Russian-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions set out plans for referendums on joining Russia this week, a step an ally of President Vladimir Putin said would alter the geopolitical landscape forever.
This move according to Russian officials is expected to help Moscow gain its terroritory. Meanwhile, Ukraine dismissed it as a stunt by Russia to try to reclaim the initiative after crushing losses on the battlefield.
Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything,” tweeted Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say, it said.
As announced by Russian officials, the referendums for Sept. 23-27 in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory or an area about the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Some pro-Kremlin figures framed the referendums as an ultimatum to the West to accept Russian territorial gains or face an all out war with a nuclear-armed foe. “Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now hawkish deputy chairman of Putin’s Security Council said on social media.
Russia has declared capturing all of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces to be the main aim of its “special military operation” since its invasion forces were defeated in March on the outskirts of Kyiv.