Ukraine, West brush off Russian referendum plans for occupied regions – Reuters

  • 4 Russia-occupied areas announce referendum plans
  • Votes to be held on whether or not to change into a part of Russia
  • Ukraine and the West regard votes as sham and unlawful
  • France’s Macron calls plan “a parody” of democracy

KYIV, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Russian-installed leaders in occupied areas of 4 Ukrainian areas set out plans for referendums on becoming a member of Russia, a transfer Ukraine and its allies dismissed on Tuesday as a stunt by Moscow to attempt to reclaim the initiative after battlefield losses.

“The Russians can do no matter they need. It won’t change something,” Ukraine’s Overseas Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated in response to reporters’ questions firstly of a gathering with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

In a tweet, he added: “Ukraine has each proper to liberate its territories and can preserve liberating them no matter Russia has to say.”

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U.S. Nationwide Safety Adviser Jake Sullivan stated Washington rejected any such referendums “unequivocally”. French President Emmanuel Macron and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda each used the phrase “parody” to explain the deliberate votes.

Within the apparently coordinated transfer, pro-Russian figures introduced deliberate referendums for Sept. 23-27 within the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing round 15% of Ukrainian territory or an space concerning the measurement of Hungary.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which collectively make up the Donbas area Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be impartial states. Ukraine and the West think about all elements of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.

In a submit on social media addressed to Putin, the chief of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Individuals’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, wrote: “I ask you, as quickly as attainable, within the occasion of a optimistic choice within the referendum – which now we have little doubt about – to think about the DPR changing into part of Russia.”


Some pro-Kremlin figures framed the referendums as an ultimatum to the West to just accept Russian territorial features or face an all-out struggle with a nuclear-armed foe.

“Encroachment onto Russian territory is a criminal offense which lets you use all of the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now hawkish deputy chairman of Putin’s Safety Council stated on social media.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kremlin RT TV station, wrote: “Immediately a referendum, tomorrow recognition as a part of the Russian Federation, the day after tomorrow strikes on Russian territory change into a full-fledged struggle between Ukraine and NATO and Russia, untying Russia’s fingers in each respect.”

However america and NATO allies which were backing Ukraine with weapons and different help stated such plebiscites can be meaningless.

If the referendum plan “wasn’t so tragic it will be humorous,” Macron informed reporters in New York, the place leaders had been arriving for a United Nations Normal Meeting assembly more likely to be dominated by the struggle in Ukraine. read more

“Russia began the struggle, invaded this area, bombed folks, made folks flee and now they’re saying on this very area it is going to organise a referendum,” Macron stated.

Sullivan informed reporters: “We’ll by no means recognise this territory as something apart from part of Ukraine. We reject Russia’s actions unequivocally.”

A spokesperson for Lithuania’s Nauseda quoted him as saying: “What Russia is doing in Donetsk, Luhansk and different occupied territories of Ukraine is a parody of democracy, it is an try to cowl the true face of the totalitarian regime. These areas are and will probably be Ukraine, and Russia’s sham referendums are unlawful. Lithuania won’t ever acknowledge them.”

Reframing preventing in occupied territory as an assault on Russia might additionally give Moscow a justification to mobilise its 2 million-strong navy reserves. Moscow has up to now resisted such a transfer regardless of mounting losses in what it calls a restricted “particular navy operation” moderately than a struggle.

Sullivan stated Washington was conscious of studies Putin could be contemplating ordering a mobilisation, which Sullivan stated would do nothing to undermine Ukraine’s means to push again Russian aggression.


Russia has declared capturing all of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces to be its important goal since its invasion forces had been defeated in March on the outskirts of Kyiv.

It now holds about 60% of Donetsk and had captured practically all of Luhansk by July after gradual advances throughout months of intense preventing. However these features are actually below menace after Russian forces had been pushed from neighbouring Kharkiv province this month, shedding management of their important provide traces for a lot of the Donetsk and Luhansk entrance traces.

The referendums had been introduced a day after Ukraine stated its troops had recaptured a foothold in Luhansk, the village of Bilohorivka, and had been getting ready to advance throughout the province.

Ukraine’s defence ministry taunted Moscow, which has claimed it deserted the entrance in Kharkiv to “regroup” to battle elsewhere. “Why did the hen cross the street?” the Ukrainian ministry tweeted on Monday. “As a result of it was regrouping.”

Within the south, Russia controls most of Zaporizhzhia however not its regional capital. In Kherson, the place the regional capital is the one main metropolis Russia has up to now captured intact for the reason that invasion, Ukraine has launched a significant counter-offensive.

Unverified footage on social media confirmed Ukrainian forces in Bilohorivka, which lies simply 10 km (6 miles) west of town of Lysychansk, which fell to the Russians after weeks of among the struggle’s most intense preventing in July.

“There will probably be preventing for each centimetre,” the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is getting ready their defence. So we won’t merely march in.”

Professional-Russian officers have stated the referendums could possibly be held electronically. Russia staged a referendum in Crimea eight years in the past earlier than declaring it annexed.

In a transfer designed to shore up Russia’s navy in Ukraine, Russia’s parliament on Tuesday additionally authorized a invoice to toughen punishments for a bunch of crimes akin to desertion, injury to navy property and insubordination, in the event that they had been dedicated throughout navy mobilisation or fight conditions. read more

(Corrects day to Tuesday from Monday in first paragraph)

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Andrew Osborn and Alex Richardson; Enhancing by Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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