- Pro-Russian officials in occupied Ukraine have announced a referendum on joining Russia.
- The tactic, used after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, has been widely condemned as a hoax.
- Voting is scheduled for September 23-28 in occupied Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson.
In the occupied Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Russia-backed separatists have announced a referendum on joining Russia, a tactic Ukraine and the West have called false.
Separatist leaders in the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk said the vote would take place between September 23 and 28, According to state-controlled Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
Russia has captured both regions and has been fighting Ukraine for more.
Russia’s military administration in occupied Kherson in the south will also vote on the dates, RIA Novosti reported.
Russia has long been quietly fueling separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, which in 2014 declared their respective regions the “People’s Republic of Donetsk and Luhansk.”
The quasi-republic is not recognized by the vast majority of countries, but President Vladimir Putin officially recognized it on February 21 as part of his rationale for his broader invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba condemned the announcements on Tuesday, saying: “A fake ‘referendum’ will not change anything.”
—Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) September 20, 2022
Asked about the announcements, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “the people of the respective territories should decide their fate” According to Al Jazeera.
While these ballots are unlikely to gain legal recognition internationally, they would provide Russia with a false pretext for claiming the territories are “Russian.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned of such tactics in July, saying: “Russian-installed leaders will hold fake referendums to create a fiction that people in those places want to join Russia.
“Then they’ll use those fake tickets to claim it’s legal to annex those areas.”
Atlantic Council Analysis It was predicted that votes in the conflict would be “clearly rigged and illegal”.
A few days ago, Ukraine took back large swathes of territory from Russia.
They are likely to rework Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Following the military occupation, pro-Russian officials said 95 percent approved joining Russia in a referendum deemed illegal by the U.S. and European Union, As the BBC reported at the time.
Still, the international response to Putin’s actions in Crimea has been muted, and the West has all but acknowledged that the region will be controlled by Russia.
Similar attempts to hold a referendum in occupied Ukraine have so far failed. The votes for Kherson, Zaporozhye and Kharkiv have all been announced but delayed.