Pro-Russian separatists start “referendums” in Ukraine – DW – 23/09/2022

Despite opposition from Kiev and the international community, so-called “referendums” began this Friday (23/09) on the annexation by Russia of Ukrainian territories occupied by Moscow. For Kiev and the West, it is “a farce”.

The parliaments of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, recognized by the Kremlin on February 21, announced the referendum on Tuesday, which was joined by the Kherson and Zaporijia regions in the south, partly under Russian rule. . Together, the four regions correspond, more or less, to the size of the territories of Portugal or Hungary. The vote will continue until next Tuesday (27.09.) and has the support of Russia.

The insurgents want to speed up the vote amid the successes achieved by Ukraine in its counter-offensive, which has resulted in the retaking of territories in the south and east of the country. The controversial vote in the occupied regions, on the eve of the seven-month war, came to be considered more seriously by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a series of setbacks by Russian troops.

Russia wants to use the alleged results of the referendum to justify the incorporation of areas occupied by separatists loyal to the Kremlin and uses the argument of “the people’s right to self-determination”.

The Kremlin justified the invasion of the neighboring country by reaffirming the need to “liberate” Donetsk and Lugansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbass region, where the majority of the population adopts the Russian language.

“Since the beginning of the operation, we have said that the peoples of the territories should decide for themselves about their destinies, and the current situation confirms that they want to be the masters of their own destinies,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Two women fasten a blue banner written in Russian on a door
Members of the Donetsk referendum committee attach a banner to one of the polling stationsPhoto: AP/picture alliance

Separatist leader Denis Pushilin spoke of a historic day in the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”.

“This referendum is crucial, it is a step towards a new reality,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.

In the Zaporijia region, voting takes place only in the parts controlled by Russian troops. The regional capital itself is controlled by Ukraine. The Lugansk region announced that citizens who fled to Russia would also be able to vote.

Hours after the referendums were announced, Putin announced a partial military mobilization, in which 300,000 reservists must be summoned – which provoked protests with more than 1,400 detainees and attempts to flee the country en masse, with crowded flights.

No international recognition

Neither Ukraine nor the international community will recognize the vote as they consider the referendums to be false, as they are held without Ukraine’s consent, under martial law and not in accordance with democratic principles. Furthermore, the free work of independent international observers was also not possible.

In the new referendums, Russia follows the same model adopted at the time of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. A “referendum” would have resulted in 97% support for separation from Ukraine, but the vote was never recognized internationally.

The European Union (EU) and the United States have repeatedly condemned these votes, which they consider illegitimate and fraudulent.

German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the “referendum” is in clear violation of international law.

“It is very, very clear that this staged referendum will not be accepted as it is not covered by international law or the understanding reached by the international community,” he said.

If Moscow formally annexes the separatist-controlled regions, Putin would essentially be challenging the US and its European allies to risk direct military confrontation with Russia, the world’s biggest nuclear power.

le/rk (Lusa, DPA, AFP, ots)

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