What Russia wants from the votes in occupied Ukraine

1 week ago 15

By Paul Kirby
BBC News

Preparation for the referendum successful  Luhansk, Ukraine - 22 Sep 2022Image source, EPA-EFE/REX

Image caption,

Booklets were handed retired connected the eve of the referendum successful Luhansk

Russian-backed officials successful 4 occupied regions of Ukraine are holding self-styled referendums connected joining Russia.

Denounced arsenic illegitimate and a sham by Ukraine and the West, these alleged votes are taking spot implicit 5 days portion each 4 areas - 2 successful the eastbound and 2 successful the southbound - are connected the beforehand line.

An annexation could could pb to a assertion by Russia that its territory is coming nether onslaught from Western weapons supplied to Ukraine.

This could escalate the warfare further.

What is going connected and wherefore now?

Seven months aft Russia's penetration began, Vladimir Putin is connected the backmost foot. Ukraine's counter-offensive has recaptured swathes of territory seized since the 24 February invasion.

A ballot connected annexation is 1 of 3 steps taken by the Kremlin successful an effort to reset the war.

By annexing different 15% of sovereign Ukraine, Russia volition beryllium capable to assertion its territory is nether onslaught from weapons provided by Nato and different Western countries to Ukraine. By calling up 300,000 other troops, it tin support a beforehand enactment of 1,000km (620 miles). The Kremlin has besides criminalised desertion, surrender and going absent without permission during mobilisation.

If Russia's person annexing territory sounds familiar, it is. When helium ordered troops to prehend Crimea successful 2014, helium followed it up with a ballot rejected arsenic an illegitimate sham by the planetary community.

This latest lawsuit has besides been denounced arsenic illegal by galore Western countries, including planetary monitoring group, the OSCE, and Russian media person already said that a Yes-vote is beyond doubt.

It is taking spot implicit 5 days successful Russia's 2 proxy areas successful Luhansk and Donetsk successful the east, and successful occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia successful the south.

What makes these votes a sham?

We person already seen however Crimea was annexed by Russia successful 2014. While the Kremlin claimed 96.7% support, a leaked study from Russia's Human Rights Council said lone astir 30% had voted and hardly fractional supported annexation.

Not a changeable had been fired successful Crimea, and yet successful this latest lawsuit voting is expected to instrumentality spot successful the mediate of a war.

The 4 regions progressive are either partially oregon wholly nether occupation.

In the south, the metropolis of Kherson is not a harmless spot close now, with Russian soldiers struggling to clasp backmost a large Ukrainian counter-offensive. The cardinal medication gathering was deed by a bid of missiles lone past week.

A unafraid ballot is impossible, and yet officials speech of 750,000 radical registered and plans to incorporated occupied parts of different Ukrainian region, Mykolayiv, into the annexed area.

Russian media reported that electoral officials would spell from door-to-door with portable ballot boxes from Friday to Monday.

Polling stations volition lone run connected the 5th day, 27 September, with officials citing information reasons.

Hundreds of stations are scheduled to unfastened that day, with voters besides capable to formed ballots successful regions extracurricular their ain - and refugees eligible to ballot successful parts of Russia itself.

Then there's Zaporizhzhia's capital, which remains securely successful Ukrainian hands, truthful immoderate ballot to annex that portion makes small sense.

Donetsk successful the eastbound is lone 60% nether Russian concern and precise overmuch astatine the bosom of the conflict.

Russia does power astir of Luhansk successful the north-east adjacent if it has begun to suffer ground. Russian quality agencies showed flyers being handed retired entitled "Russia is the future".

Much of the pre-war colonisation has fled the conflict. The caput of Russia's proxy authorization successful Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, ordered a wide evacuation days earlier the invasion.

Russian-backed leaders person been keen to signifier votes for respective months, but the determination to clasp the ballot was taken conscionable 3 days successful beforehand and smacks of desperation.

There volition beryllium nary autarkic observers. Much of the voting volition beryllium online, though officials person promised other information astatine polling stations.

What volition change?

Ukrainian defence ministry advisor Yuriy Sak told the BBC the alleged referendums were doomed. "We are seeing that section populations are each successful favour of returning to Ukraine, and this is wherefore there's truthful overmuch guerrilla question absorption successful these territories."

In immoderate event, Kyiv says thing volition alteration and its forces volition proceed to propulsion to liberate the territories.

Russia expert Alexander Baunov says simply redefining the occupied areas arsenic Russian territory is improbable to halt Ukraine's army, but it does nonstop a connection of intent to the populations nether their control. And the Kremlin's anticipation is that the West volition baulk astatine having its weapons fired astatine onshore declared by Moscow arsenic Russian.

Alarmingly President Putin has spoken of utilizing each means astatine his disposal "to support Russia". And successful lawsuit determination was immoderate uncertainty astatine all. the lawman caput of Russia's information council, Dmitry Medvedev, made wide that atomic weapons could besides beryllium utilized to support annexed territories.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken of a "dangerous escalation", but reaffirmed Washington's presumption that nary Russian assertion to Ukrainian ungraded could instrumentality distant Ukraine's close to support itself.

Even Turkey, which has sought to play a mediating role, has damned the ballot arsenic illegitimate.

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