Multiple Kremlin-backed authorities in eastern and southern Ukraine have announced a referendum to join Russia this week.
While previous plans for such a vote have been delayed, Russian-backed officials made a flurry of announcements in occupied Ukraine on Tuesday — all from Sept. 23 to Sept. 27.
Kherson: Vladimir Saldo, head of the Russian-backed Kherson government, said he had “signed a decree” for the referendum, which also laid out procedures for organizing the vote and “administrative violations of these rules” and criminal liability measures”. Parts of Kherson are on the front lines between Ukrainian and Russian troops.
Luhansk People’s Republic: The self-proclaimed leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, also signed a referendum law. According to the text, “the LPR Central Election Commission will determine the result of the referendum for the Republic to join the LPR within five days of the last polling day”, according to the local media portal Lug-Info.
Donetsk People’s Republic: The self-proclaimed DPR agreed to hold a referendum, and the head said he wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to join the Russian Federation quickly after the referendum.
Zaporozhye: Vladimir Rogov, a senior pro-Russian official in the occupied Zaporozhye region, said the so-called Zaporozhye state national assembly had approved the referendum. “Technically, we are ready. The polling stations are secured. Our borders are reliably protected by the Russian army,” said Yevgeny Baritsky, head of the Russian-appointed Zaporozhye regional administration. Say
Ukraine responded: Ukrainian officials condemned the statements. The foreign ministry said the “fake referendum” would not change “Ukraine’s administrative territorial structure and internationally recognized borders”. The ministry called the vote “forced citizenship of citizens” and said it was “another attempt by Russia to legitimize the consequences of its war of aggression against Ukraine”.
Russia responded: The statements were quickly supported by Russian politicians. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has publicly backed a referendum in the self-proclaimed republic of Donbass, saying it had “huge significance” for the “systematic protection” of residents. “No future Russian leader and no official can overturn these decisions,” he added.
The United States responded: The Pentagon said the announcements were “simply an informational operation to distract attention from the predicament the Russian military is currently in.” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also condemned the moves on Tuesday.