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Urgent 'referendums' on joining the Russian Federation are being prepared in the occupied territories of Ukraine: why Russia needs it

In the occupied territories of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of Ukraine on September 23-27, "referendums on joining Russia" will be held, reports Meduza.

Photo: IStock

With such a proposal on September 20, the “public council” addressed the head of the occupation administration of the Kherson region, Volodymyr Saldo, and the public movement “We are together with Russia” addressed the head of the occupation administration of the Zaporozhye region, Yevgeny Balitsky. The appeals of the organizations say that "joining" will secure the occupied territories of the two regions.

In the occupied territory of the Zaporozhye region, during the so-called "referendum", "teams" of members of the CEC and police officers will go to the houses of residents, reports Ukrainian Truth.

“Voting will take place from Friday (September 23), and people living on the territory of the Zaporozhye region, liberated from Nazism, will be sorted by address. Many will be visited by our team of people, which will consist of members of the commission, of course, accompanied by police officers so that there are no incidents, and people will be invited to vote by address,” Balitsky said.

According to the collaborator, in this way the occupiers allegedly plan to “protect residents from crowds in places where the Nazis can launch rocket attacks or plant explosive devices.”

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Balitsky added that those who, for some reason, will not be able to vote in the conditions of door-to-door bypass, will be able to vote at polling stations.

The occupation administration of the Kherson region announced that it would hold a "referendum on joining the Russian Federation." This was stated by the head of the occupation administration Vladimir Saldo. He expects that the Kremlin will accept the results of the vote. After the "referendum," Saldo says, he will ask Russian President Vladimir Putin "as soon as possible" to approve the results. Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the occupation administration, claims that about 80% of the inhabitants of the Kherson region are ready to come to the “referendum”.

"Referendums" in the occupied territories of Ukraine will be held from September 23 to 27, according to two sources close to the Russian presidential administration. Voting was officially scheduled for the same dates in the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR, where the day before they also announced the holding of “referendums”. The representatives of the "People's Councils" of the "DPR" and "LPR" reported that the voting would take place these days. The head of the occupation administration of the Kherson region also said that the vote in the region will be held on September 23-27. The same dates were named by the head of the occupational administration of the Zaporozhye region Yevhen Balitsky.

On September 20, the "People's Councils" of the "DPR" and "LPR" adopted laws on holding "referendums on joining the Russian Federation as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation." The head of the self-proclaimed LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, signed the law. The head of the DPR, Denis Pushilin, in turn, turned to Vladimir Putin and asked him "as soon as possible, in the event of a positive decision following the referendum, to consider the issue of joining the DPR to the Russian Federation."

Russia controls only part of the occupied territories of Ukraine. According to Meduza, Russian troops have occupied 93% of the territory in the Kherson region, and 65% in the Zaporozhye region. 99% of the territory is occupied in the Luhansk region, and 64-65% of the territory is occupied in the Donetsk region.

The Russian authorities supported the holding of "referendums". Andrey Turchak, secretary of the United Russia General Council, said that "a referendum is needed, and has been needed for a long time." “An honest and open vote will secure de jure its results once and for all. De facto, Donbass and the liberated territories are already Russia,” Turchak said. State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin at a meeting on September 20 said that if the "DNR" and "LNR" vote for "joining Russia", then the deputies "should support it."

On the same day, the State Duma of Russia introduced the concepts of "mobilization" and "martial law" into the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. For the adoption of the law in the third reading, the deputies voted unanimously - all 389 people. Articles “Voluntary surrender” (Article 352.1, up to 10 years in prison) and “Looting” (Article 356.1, up to 15 years) were added to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The list of aggravating circumstances added the commission of a crime "during the period of mobilization or martial law, in wartime."

One of the authors of the amendments, Senator Olga Kovitidi, said that the amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation do not mean mobilization in Russia: “As far as this law is concerned, mobilization has not been announced in the country.”

The law also toughened the punishment for unauthorized abandonment of a unit during the period of mobilization and martial law (Article 337 of the Criminal Code) - up to 10 years in a colony. In addition, the Criminal Code introduced punishment (Part 2.1 of Article 332 of the Criminal Code) for failure to comply with the order of the chief during martial law, in wartime or in armed conflict, as well as for refusing to participate in hostilities. This is punishable by two to three years in prison.

At a meeting on September 20, the State Duma also adopted a law that simplifies the granting of Russian citizenship to foreigners serving in the armed forces of the Russian Federation.

The first official reaction from Moscow came from Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, in his Telegram channel, to which he had not written for a week, reports with the BBC. Medvedev supported the proposals of the occupying authorities in Ukraine, threatening to "use all the forces of self-defense" in the event of "encroachment on the territory of Russia" - referring to the impending annexation of Ukrainian territories.

On the eve of the "Crimean scenario" - that is, the annexation of new territories following the example of Crimea in 2014 - wrote propagandist and head of the RT television channel Margarita Simonyan.

The head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, in response to the announcement of "referendums" threatened to "solve the Russian issue." He wrote about this in his telegram channel: “Naive blackmail with threats and horror stories of “referendums”, “mobilizations” from those who know how to fight only with children and civilians ... This is how the fear of defeat looks like. The enemy is afraid, primitively manipulates. Ukraine will solve the Russian question. The threat can only be eliminated by force.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “neither fake ‘referenda’ nor hybrid ‘mobilization’ will change anything.” “Russia, as it was and remains, is an aggressor state illegally occupying a part of Ukrainian land.

Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to liberate them, no matter what they say in Russia,” the Ukrainian minister said.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has questioned whether the pro-Russian authorities' appeals should be considered a new maneuver by the Kremlin, and not their own initiative. Experts pointed out that Russian forces do not fully control the Donetsk and even Luhansk regions.

A partial annexation at this stage would also put the Kremlin in the strange and even humiliating position of having to demand that Ukrainian troops not occupy “Russian” territory (in a situation where Russia cannot enforce its demand). It remains unclear whether Vladimir Putin is ready to put himself in such a hopeless position for the sake of dubious profit, because it is easier for him only to threaten NATO and Ukraine with an escalation, which he is unlikely to go to at the current stage, ISW experts say.

“Talking about an immediate referendum is an absolutely unequivocal ultimatum from Russia to Ukraine and the West,” writes political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya on her Telegram channel. "To guarantee 'victory', Putin is ready to immediately hold referendums to gain the right (as he understands it) to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory."

That is, if these Ukrainian territories “become part of the Russian Federation,” then this gives the Kremlin a formal reason for general mobilization, because then Ukraine will allegedly attack “Russian territories.” And to protect its territory, according to the nuclear doctrine, Russia can use nuclear weapons.

According to Stanovaya, “Putin does not want to win this war on the battlefield. Putin wants to force Kyiv to surrender without a fight.” She also notes that, judging by media reports, until a week ago, the Kremlin believed that "referendums" would take place towards the end of the year, if at all. “In other words, this is not a plan, this is a failure of the plan,” she described the current situation with the “referenda”.

If Russia organizes and holds a "referendum" in the occupied territories of the Luhansk region, this will pave the way for general mobilization in Russia, head of the Luhansk regional military administration Sergei Gaidai said the day before.

“The de-occupation of the temporarily occupied Ukrainian Luhansk region, from Russia’s point of view, will be a “direct attack on Russia,” and this will make it possible to carry out a general mobilization and declare war. Because they have huge problems with mobilization. They cannot recruit people in normal numbers,” the governor believes.

The Russian authorities deny problems with the replenishment of personnel for the group in Ukraine. The Kremlin regularly makes claims that the "special military operation" is going according to plan. Putin showed his confidence last week when he answered a reporter's question about a surprise Ukrainian counter-offensive that saw the Russian army cede much of the occupied territory in the Kharkiv region.

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“The Kyiv authorities have announced that they have launched and are conducting an active counter-offensive operation. Well, let's see how it will develop, how it will end," Putin said on September 16. “Our offensive operations in the Donbas itself do not stop, they are going at a slow pace,” he argued. “The Russian army is occupying new and new territories.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly promised to defeat and liberate all the territories of Ukraine occupied by Russia.

France, Germany, Canada, the USA, Turkey have declared that they do not recognize the legality of these referendums. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the referendums planned by the authorities of Donbass "fictitious". In his opinion, they “do not have legitimacy and do not change the nature of the aggressive war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” reports Newspaper. The European Union has warned Moscow about the introduction of new sanctions in the event of a referendum.

“Russia, its political leadership, everyone involved in these “referendums”, other violations of international law in Ukraine, will be held accountable. Additional restrictive measures against Russia will also be considered,” said Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy.

"The international community must condemn this egregious violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine," he added.

Against the backdrop of growing geopolitical risks, the Moscow Exchange index fell by almost 7%, falling below 2300 points for the first time since the end of August. Shares of many Russian companies, including Gazprom, Sberbank, VK, fell by more than 10%.

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