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Ukraine says Russia’s plan for referendums in occupied areas signals ‘fear of defeat’

20.09.2022 19:00
Top Ukrainian officials on Tuesday said that plans by Russian-installed authorities in occupied parts of Ukraine to hold referendums on joining Russia “will not change anything” and stem from “fear of defeat.” 
Top Ukrainian officials on Tuesday said that plans by Russian-installed authorities to hold referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine on joining Russia will not change anything and stem from fear of defeat.
Top Ukrainian officials on Tuesday said that plans by Russian-installed authorities to hold referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine on joining Russia “will not change anything” and stem from “fear of defeat.” PAP/EPA

The referendum plans were unveiled earlier on Tuesday, according to news outlets.

Calls for referendums had been renewed by Russian-installed authorities a day earlier, amid Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive in the east and south of the country, Polish state news agency PAP reported. 

Referendum plans

On Tuesday, Russian-installed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region said they would organise a referendum on September 23-27 on joining Russia, and urged President Vladimir Putin to admit their territory to Russia as soon as possible after the vote, according to the Reuters news agency.

Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) wrote on social media, addressing Putin: "I ask you, as soon as possible, in the event of a positive decision in the referendum - which we have no doubt about - to consider the DPR becoming a part of Russia."

Meanwhile, the separatist Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) said on Tuesday it planned to stage a referendum on joining Russia on the same dates.

Furthermore, Russian-installed authorities in occupied parts of Ukraine’s southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces have made similar calls, according to Reuters.

Putin recognised Luhansk and Donetsk as independent countries at the start of his invasion of Ukraine in February. He now claims that securing their territory is the main aim of this "special military operation".

‘Russian proxies and some Kremlin decision-makers are in a panic’: ISW

On Monday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that “The legislatures of Russia’s proxies in occupied Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR), each called on their leadership to ‘immediately’ hold a referendum on recognizing the DNR and LNR as Russian subjects.”

According to the ISW, a US think tank, “Urgent discussion on September 19 among Russia’s proxies of the need for Russia to immediately annex Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (much of the latter of which is not under Russian control) suggests that Ukraine’s ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers.”

Ukraine’s response

This view was echoed by Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday. 

Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelensky's office,  stated on Telegram: "Naive blackmail, [and] threats to hold referendums and announce mobilisation from those [Russians] who only know how to fight with children and unarmed people. This is what the fear of defeat looks like. Russia is afraid, it tries to primitively manipulate.”

Yermak added: "Ukraine will solve the ‘Russian issue’. The threat can be eliminated only by force," as cited by the Ukrainska Pravda website.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet: “Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilisation’,” the US broadcaster CNN reported.

Kuleba added: “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.”

Russia’s plan to annex vast portions of Ukraine 

Meanwhile, Russia on Tuesday voiced support for the plans by Kremlin-backed separatists to stage the referendums, which would pave the way for the annexation of large portions of Ukrainian territory. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said about the referendums: "From the very start of the operation... we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their fate," as cited by the Reuters news agency.

The requests for referendums “appeared choreographed,” Reuters reported, adding that formal annexation of swathes of Ukrainian land would represent a direct challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the conflict.

It cited Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political analysis firm R.Politik, as saying that "All this talk about immediate referendums is an absolutely unequivocal ultimatum from Russia to Ukraine and the West."

Back in March, US President Joe Biden warned that a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia would mean World War III. Both the US head of state and fellow NATO leaders have stressed that they do not want the Western alliance’s forces in direct conflict with Russian troops.

‘Occupiers are in a panic’: Zelensky

The referendum plans come amid Ukraine’s successful advance in various parts of the country. Assessing the counter-offensive, which now involves a push into the Luhansk region, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "The occupiers are clearly in a panic," as cited by times.co.uk.

Speaking in a late-night televised address on Monday, Zelensky added that he was now focused on "speed" in liberated areas.

"The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life," he said.

Ukraine's head of state also suggested he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to urge countries to step up weapons and aid deliveries, the Reuters news agency reported.

Tuesday is day 209 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, pravda.com.ua, edition.cnn.comtimes.co.uk