Ukraine: Moscow wants referendums to ratify its conquests

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now the head of Vladimir Putin’s Security Council, on Tuesday gave his support to the annexation referendums that pro-Russian separatists want to organize in Ukraine this week, in the hope of discouraging Western countries to continue to support the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

After seven months of war, the atmosphere has totally changed on the ground, the conquest of the whole of Donbass – Moscow’s stated objective since the failure of its offensive towards Kyiv – seeming more and more illusory whereas the army On the contrary, Ukraine has begun the reconquest of the occupied territories, well helped by the acceleration of modern Western arms deliveries. The Russian forces which had to withdraw precipitously from the Kharkiv region ten days ago are increasingly under pressure in the Luhansk region, the only one they fully control, in the northeast of Ukraine, and also gradually give ground further south, as they approach the city of Kherson.

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As men and weapons begin to run out, Russia is looking for a way to secure its territorial conquests and has put back on the table the question of annexation referendums, which the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk said on Monday they wanted to organize as quickly as possible. The administration installed by Moscow in the part of the Kherson region occupied by the Russian army did the same on Tuesday.

According to Russian agencies, the authorities of the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR) and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) have proposed that the vote be held from September 23 to 27, i.e. from this Friday. Dmitry Medvedev, who presided over Russia from 2008 to 2012, said he was very favorable to these “initiatives” which he said would change the country’s history and allow Moscow to have more options to defend these territories.

“Self-defense”

“To encroach on Russian territory is a crime that allows the use of all forms of self-defense,” said adviser to President Vladimir Putin in a message on Telegram. “That’s why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West.” “It is equally important that after the modification of the Constitution of our State, no future leader of Russia, no official can reverse these decisions,” he added.

The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, for his part declared on Russian state television that the decision was up to the inhabitants of the separatist regions. The annexation of Ukrainian territories is the last card Vladimir Putin has to warn the United States and its European allies against a direct confrontation with Russia, the world’s leading nuclear power.

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US President Joe Biden, whose country provides the largest share of military aid to Ukraine, said in March that he did not want a war between Russia and NATO. The Russian leaders, however, consider themselves already in conflict with the “collective West” which provides Ukraine, in addition to the weapons which have reversed the balance of power on the ground, with decisive intelligence for the success of its attacks and the training of his soldiers.

Vladimir Putin on Friday presented the Ukrainian counter-offensive as the result of a Western plot to destroy Russia. This conviction has been deeply rooted in the Kremlin since pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on the streets in 2014. Moscow immediately responded by annexing Crimea and providing military support to separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“Historical Justice”

The current Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has made the reconquest of all the occupied territories, including those which have been occupied for eight years, the objective of the counter-offensive launched in recent weeks, for which he is increasingly demanding in addition to insistence on Western countries heavy and modern weapons, especially tanks. He joked on Monday about the “panic” that gripped Russian and pro-Russian leaders, illustrated by the hasty organization of the referendums.

For Moscow, the priority is in fact to break the Ukrainian dynamic and dissuade the United States and its allies from making an additional qualitative leap in terms of armaments. The Russian president’s entourage has repeatedly raised the threat of a nuclear strike, with little success so far, and now seems to think that the annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territories would make this threat more credible, and therefore perhaps more efficient.

Holding referendums in territories at war would have little democratic legitimacy, especially since Russian forces control only 60% of the Donetsk region and the Ukrainian army seems on the verge of regaining a foothold in the region. of Luhansk, on the momentum of its breakthrough east of Kharkiv. The situation is also disputed on the military level in the regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia, where the fate of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe continues to cause concern.

However, the Kremlin showed with the hastily organized referendum in Crimea in 2014 – the result of which only a handful of Moscow’s allies recognized – that it does not stop at this kind of consideration. “Referendums in the Donbass are essential, not only to protect the inhabitants of the LPR, the DPR and other liberated territories, but also to restore historical justice”, explained Dmitry Medvedev.

(with Reuters)


Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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