There were four regions of Ukraine controlled by pro-Moscow forces. Preparing for a referendum on Friday Upon joining Russia, it was widely condemned by the West as a harbinger of illegitimate and illegal occupation.
Voting in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is scheduled to run from Friday to Tuesday.
Russian-founded leaders announced plans for the votes on Tuesday, posing a challenge to the West that could rapidly escalate the war. The results are seen as a foregone conclusion in favor of attachment, and Ukraine And its allies have already made it clear that they will not recognize the results.
Seven months after Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv launched a retaliation this month that largely occupied the region, starting a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and derailed the global economy. was harmed.
The referendum had been discussed for months by pro-Moscow officials, but Ukraine’s recent victory has led to officials scrambling to determine them.
Moscow is trying to gain the upper hand in the conflict, with Putin this week announcing a military draft to include 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine.
Russia has claimed that the referendum was an opportunity for people in the region to express their views.
“From the very beginning of the operation … we said that the people of the respective regions should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be the masters of their own destiny,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Said before. Week.
Ukraine says Russia wants to frame the referendum results as a sign of popular support, and then to use them as an analogy to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which is not recognized by the international community. Wants to use that as an excuse.
By including four regions in Russia, Moscow could justify the military growth needed to defend its territory. Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would “use all means at our disposal” to defend itself, an apparent reference to nuclear weapons. He said, ‘It’s not a hoax.
“Encroachment on Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all forces of self-defense,” Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russian president from 2008 to 2012, said in a post on Telegram on Tuesday. “That’s why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West”.
The results in Russia’s favor are believed to be certain in the voting beginning on Friday. The 2014 referendum in Crimea, criticized internationally as rigged, had an official result of 97% in favor of formal annexation.
“If this is all declared Russia territory, they can declare that it is a direct attack on Russia so that they can fight without reservation,” Luhansk regional governor Serhi Gaidai told Ukraine TV.
The referendum has been condemned by world leaders including US President Joe Biden, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as by international bodies NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation. Europe (OSCE).
NATO said Thursday that “sham referendum” is “illegal and illegitimate”.
The OSCE, which oversees the elections, said the results would have no legal force because they do not conform to Ukrainian law or international standards and the territories are not safe. There would be no independent observers, and most of the population before the war fled.
Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which in 2014 partly annexed the Donbass region, to be independent states.
Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine to be illegally occupied by the Russian military. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions, with only about 60% of the Donetsk region in Russian hands.