Practically overnight, the authorities of the Ukrainian regions under occupation by the Russian Army, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, decided this morning to convene popular queries for an express accession to Russia. Voting in these four Ukrainian zones, controlled by self-proclaimed pro-Russian administrations and promoted thanks to the full support of Moscow, will take place over five days, between the 23rd and 27th of this month of September.
At the same time, the State Duma (Lower House of the Russian Parliament) unanimously approved yesterday in urgent processing, in second and third definitive reading, a law introducing the concepts of «mobilization», martial law« and »time of war«. They add new articles to the Russian Criminal Code to toughen the punishments for those who refuse to be mobilized (between 3 and 10 years in prison), deserters (up to 10 years in prison) and those who surrender to the enemy as prisoners (also up to 10 years).
Surprisingly, the so-called “people’s councils” of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the occupation administration of the kherson regionThey already decided on Monday simultaneously to hold “referendums” to incorporate their territories into Russia. Today the region of Zaporizhia also joined the process and the heads of the four entities, Denis Pushilin (Donetsk), Leonid Pásechnik (Lugansk), Vladimir Saldo (Kherson) and Evgueni Balitski (Zaporijia) officially called the votes in their respective enclaves for the days included between the next 23 and 27 September.
These consultations had been talked about for a long time and different dates were advanced, one of the proposals was on the 11th, coinciding with the municipal and regional elections in Russia, but later, due to the hardness of the fighting, it was decided to postpone them to later. However, now, when the situation on the front lines after the great Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kharkov region is even more complicated, the decision to call the referendums has been hastily taken. And it is being done according to the same model carried out in Crimea in March 2014, which served as justification for the Kremlin to annex the peninsula.
Medvedev, instigator of popular consultations
It so happens that, this morning, the former Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, encouraged the pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels to carry out consultations without wasting time, since, in his opinion, “they will allow Russia to use all its self-defense forces.” Through his Telegram channel, Medvedev assures that, once the consultations have taken place and those already annexed regions become part of the neighboring country, “invading the territory of Russia would be a crime and if it is committed, it allows all forces to be used in legitimate defense”, perhaps even weapons nuclear weapons, a threat that he himself has raised on several occasions.
“Neither farce referendums nor hybrid mobilizations will change anything”
Foreign Minister of Ukraine
The former Russian president and former prime minister believes that holding a referendum for accession to Russia is of “great importance not only for the protection of the inhabitants, but also for the restoration of historical justice». “The geopolitical transformation of the world will be irreversible (…) once new territories are integrated into Russia,” estimates Medvedev, the first senior Russian official to react yesterday to calls from pro-Russians for more Ukrainian regions to be annexed by Russia. He was president between 2008 and 2012, at the end of which term he was called by President Vladimir Putin to occupy the head of the Government until he was dismissed on January 15, 2020. Now Medvedev is vice president of the Russian Security Council, a body of character advisory that has actually become the main decision center.
But the reactions from kyiv they have been forceful. The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andrii Yermak, denounces that “the threat to hold consultations and mobilize the Russian population is naive blackmail.” In his opinion, Russian troops “only know how to fight with children and civilians.” The Ukrainian official stated on Telegram that “the enemy is afraid and manipulates primitively. Ukraine will solve the Russian problem. The threat can only be removed by force.”
For Ukraine, it is a “new ‘show'”
For his part, the Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mijailo Podoliak, declared on Twitter that “the Russians have decided to respond asymmetrically to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. They think that an illegal ‘referendum’ will prevent HIMARS launchers and the Ukrainian Armed Forces from destroying those who have occupied our land.” «Do you really want to waste your time on a new ‘show’? Let them try it, it will be interesting”, concludes Podoliak.
For the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will do so.” In his words, “neither referendum shams not even the hybrid ‘mobilisations’ will change anything. Russia, as it was, remains an aggressor country illegally occupying part of the Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate the territories from it and will liberate them, no matter what happens ».
The Central Electoral Commission of Russia, which the Russian opposition holds responsible for the fraud that permanently tarnishes the elections in the country, has announced that it will help Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia to organize the consultations so that they integrate into Russia as soon as possible. This was stated yesterday by the vice president of the Electoral Commission, Nikolai Bulayev. They will do so by creating electoral colleges, which do not exist right now. The question is how little time is left for it. Also, it will be almost impossible to vote in war conditions. The men are at the front lines and most of the civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk have been evacuated to Russia. Russian forces also do not control all of Donetsk or Zaporizhia and have lost towns in Kherson and Lugansk in recent days.