The referendums held in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia concluded yesterday as expected; four eastern and southern regions of Ukraine have assented to Russian annexation.
The referendums ran for four days and used intimidation to guarantee the Kremlin’s desired outcome.
Whilst in some areas citizens were called to polling stations, in others Russian soldiers went from door to door to force participation. The soldiers reportedly held the voters at gunpoint whilst they either marked on paper or answered verbally whether they “support their republic’s accession to Russia as a federal subject” or not.
In light of this coercion, it is hardly surprising that – according to the reported preliminary results – around 95% of voters in the four regions chose for their land to be annexed.
Canada does not – and will not ever – recognize the results of Russia’s illegitimate referendums or its attempted, illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories. Let me be clear: Ukraine’s borders will not change. Ukraine’s territory will remain Ukraine’s.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 28, 2022
The consequences of this result could hint towards safety for those within the soon-to-be annexed regions.
As one voter said, “some residents expected to be protected if part of a nuclear-armed Russia.” Putin also mentioned yesterday his desire to use the referendums to “save” the people in these areas of Ukraine.
However, Ukrainian officials are concerned that the annexation could be a precursor to more extensive conscription of men from these territories – which combined make up around 15% of Ukraine’s landmass – into the Russian military.
These fears are founded on the recent mass call-up of Russians to the army that has led to tens of thousands attempting to hide or flee the country in the past week alone.
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Furthermore, if Russia does, in fact, absorb these regions, any attempt made by Ukraine to regain them would be perceived as an attack on Russia’s sovereign territory. This could potentially escalate the war to new heights since, as Putin affirmed last week, the country would use “all means at its disposal” to defend these annexed territories.
“I have to remind you again – for those deaf who only hear themselves. Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary.”
The Kremlin has signalled that Putin will address both houses of Russian parliament on Friday to confirm the incorporation. It can be predicted that following this sign-off the formal annexation processes will begin.
I really want as many people as possible to watch these video. Try to imagine yourself in the place of these people. Their cities were occupied by a foreign army and now people with guns come to their apartments and demand to vote for joining Russia. Fake “referendums”. pic.twitter.com/UpqXgP4yT3
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) September 23, 2022
In a recorded address, President Zelensky pledged to recapture all occupied areas, stating:
“We will act to protect our people: both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in the Crimea.”
Yesterday, Zelensky also called upon Western leaders to take “preventive” actions now, as opposed to waiting for Russia’s next move. Such desired actions likely include providing Ukraine with the military equipment – longer-range missiles, NATO-standard tanks, and fighter jets – that the country has been calling for.
As of yet, no such deliveries have been made but multiple countries have otherwise voiced and demonstrated their continued support of Ukraine and disdain for the results of the referendums:
- The EU announced today the imposition of new sanctions aimed at Russia’s military capabilities, specifically aviation, electronics, and chemicals. They also plan to deny Russia another €7 billion in revenues.
- The UK has responded with 92 new sanctions targeting Russia’s top officials and wealthiest oligarchs, many of whom were involved in the enforcement of the vote.
- The White House has stated that they refuse to recognise “Ukrainian territory as anything other than Ukraine.”
- The UN has affirmed it is committed to Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” within its presently recognised borders.
With winter fast approaching, the economic costs to Europe of supporting Ukraine is mounting. The rest of the week should reveal whether this stress is enough to make Ukraine’s allies step back, as Russia hopes, or whether the countries will continue to take tangible action to support Ukraine, shouldering the further military, political, and economic risks that this would entail.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.— Featured Photo: Relatives cry at the mass grave of civilians killed during Russian occupation in Bucha. Photo Credits: Manhhai.