Several Kremlin-backed authorities in eastern and southern Ukraine have suddenly announced that referendums on joining Russia will be held this week.
If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know about developments in the Russian war in Ukraine on Tuesday.
While previous plans for such a vote have been postponed, there has been a flurry of announcements from various Russian-backed officials in the occupied regions of Ukraine – all set for a vote from September 23 to September 27.
Kherson: The head of the Kherson administration, supported by Russia, Vladimir Saldo, said that he “signed a decree” for the referendum, which also defined the procedure for organizing voting and “the procedure for administrative and criminal responsibility for violating these rules.” Parts of Kherson on the front lines between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Luhansk People’s Republic: The leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasnik, also signed a law on the referendum. According to the text, “The Central Election Commission of the LPR will determine the results of the referendum on the entry of the republic into the LPR no later than five days after the last voting day,” according to the local media portal Lug-Info.
Donetsk People’s Republic: The DPRK agreed to hold a referendum and the president said he wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to quickly join the republic into the Russian Federation once the referendum was held.
Zaporizhia: Vladimir Rogov, a senior pro-Russian official in occupied Zaporizhia, said that the so-called National Congress of Citizens of Zaporizhia Region approved the referendum. “Technically, we are ready. – Ensure the security of polling stations. Our borders are reliably protected by the Russian army,” said Yevgeny Palitsky, Russia-appointed head of the Zaporozhye regional administration.
Ukrainian response: Ukrainian officials denounced these statements. The Foreign Ministry said the “sham referendums” would not change the “regional administrative structure and internationally recognized borders of Ukraine”. The ministry called the vote “forced citizenship” for the population and said it was “another attempt by Russia to legitimize the consequences of its aggressive war against Ukraine.”
Russian response: The ads gained rapid support from Russian politicians. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev publicly supported referendums in the unilaterally declared republics of Donbass, saying that it would have “great importance” in the “systemic protection” of the population. “No future Russian leader, not a single official will be able to reverse these decisions,” he added.
United States response: The Pentagon said the ads were “just a media operation designed to distract from the difficult situation in which the Russian military currently finds itself.” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield also condemned the steps on Tuesday.