News ID: 324241
Published: 0259 GMT September 20, 2022

Four Ukrainian separatist regions plan votes to join Russia

Four Ukrainian separatist regions plan votes to join Russia
ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS

A man rides a bicycle past the ruins of a building destroyed by recent shelling during Russia-Ukraine conflict in the city of Kadiivka (Stakhanov) in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on September 19, 2022.

Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans Tuesday to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia.

The announcements of referendums starting Friday in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia regions came after a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said votes were needed, according to AP.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev said folding regions into Russia itself would make redrawn frontiers “irreversible” and enable Moscow to use “any means” to defend them.

The votes, in territory Russia already controls, are expected with near-certainty to go Moscow’s way but are unlikely to be recognized by Western governments backing Ukraine with military and other support.

Luhansk and Donetsk together form much of the Donbas region, which has been gripped by separatist fighting since 2014 and which Putin has set as a primary objective of the Russia’s military operation.

In Donetsk, separatist leader Denis Pushilin said the “long-suffering people of the Donbas have earned the right to be part of the great country that they always considered their motherland.”

He added that the vote will help “restore historic justice that millions of the Russian people were waiting for.”

Pressure within Russia and from Moscow-backed leaders in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine for votes to pave their way to becoming Russian increased in the wake of a Ukrainian counteroffensive — bolstered by Western-supplied weaponry — that is recapturing large areas from Russian troops.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that there are no prospects for a diplomatic settlement. Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said on his messaging app channel that votes in separatist regions are important to protect their residents and “restore historic justice” and would “completely change” Russia’s future trajectory.

“After they are held and the new territories are taken into Russia’s fold, a geopolitical transformation of the world will become irreversible,” said Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008-2012.

“An encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime that would warrant any means of self-defense,” he said, adding that Russia would enshrine the new territories in its constitution so no future Russian leader could hand them back.

“That is why they fear those referendums so much in Kyiv and in the West,” Medvedev said. “That is why they must be held.”

 

 

 

 

   
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