September 28, 2022
Pro-Russian separatists start "referendums" in Ukraine - DW - 09/23/2022

Pro-Russian separatists start “referendums” in Ukraine – DW – 09/23/2022

Despite the opposition of Kyiv and the international community, the so-called “referendums” began on Friday (23/09) on Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian lands occupied by Moscow. For Kiev and the West, it is a “farce”.

The parliaments of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics in eastern Ukraine, which the Kremlin recognized on February 21, declared a referendum on Tuesday, in which the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions in the south, were partly under Russian rule. The four regions together correspond, more or less, to the size of the territory of Portugal or Hungary. Voting will continue until next Tuesday (27.09.) and has the support of Russia.

The rebels want to speed up the vote amid Ukraine’s successes in its counter-offensive, which has led to the restoration of territory in the south and east of the country. The controversial vote in the occupied territories, on the eve of the seven-month war, was taken more seriously by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a series of setbacks by Russian forces.

Russia wants to use the alleged results of the referendum to justify the incorporation of the areas occupied by separatists loyal to the Kremlin and uses the argument of “the people’s right to self-determination”.

The Kremlin justified the invasion of the neighboring country by reaffirming the need to “liberate” Donetsk and Lugansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbass region, where the majority of the population adopts the Russian language.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Since the beginning of the process, we have said that the peoples of the regions should decide for themselves their fate, and the current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their own destiny.”

Donetsk Referendum Committee members hang a banner on a polling stationPhoto: AP / picture alliance

Separatist leader Denis Pushlin spoke of a historic day in the “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

“This referendum is important, it is a step towards a new reality,” he said in a video posted to Telegram.

In the Zaporizhia region, voting takes place only in the parts controlled by Russian troops. The regional capital itself is controlled by Ukraine. Lugansk region announced that citizens who fled to Russia will also be able to vote.

Hours after the referendums were announced, Putin announced a partial military mobilization, in which 300,000 reservists should be called up – sparking protests with more than 1,400 detainees and attempts to flee the country en masse, with crowded flights.

There is no international recognition

Neither Ukraine nor the international community will recognize the vote because they consider the referendums to be invalid, as they are held without the consent of Ukraine, under martial law nor according to democratic principles. Moreover, the free work of independent international observers was also not possible.

In the new referendums, Russia follows the same model adopted at the time of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The “referendum” could have resulted in 97% support for secession from Ukraine, but the vote was not recognized internationally.

These votes have been repeatedly condemned by the European Union and the United States, which they consider to be illegitimate and fraudulent.

German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the “referendum” clearly violated international law.

“It is very clear that this interim referendum will not be accepted because it is not covered by international law or the understanding reached by the international community,” he said.

If Moscow formally annexes separatist-held areas, Putin will be challenging the United States and its European allies to risk a direct military confrontation with Russia, the world’s largest nuclear power.

le/rk (Lusa, DPA, AFP, ots)