Ukraine, West denounce Russian referendum plans for occupied regions

Ukraine, West denounce Russian referendum plans for occupied regions
A convoy of pro-Russian separatist tanks drive on a road during, as pro-Russian separatists said, withdrawing their heavy weapons from the front line, in Aleksandrovsk town, near Luhansk, Ukraine, 03 October 2015. Leaders from four countries defended a long-flouted ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine on Friday, as withdrawal of small-calibre arms was set to go into effect over the weekend. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the Ukrainian military would begin withdrawing guns with a calibre of less than 100 millimetres from the front lines on Saturday, describing the agreement as the most significant achievement of the talks. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that the sides agreed that the withdrawal would begin 'tomorrow at midnight.' While no major breakthroughs were announced after talks lasting nearly five hours, both French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the region was on the right track toward meeting a peace accord signed in Minsk in February. Local elections in rebel-held areas will be postponed until observers could ensure that they would proceed legally, Hollande said after the talks in Paris. The rebel governments in Donetsk and Luhansk had planned to hold elections on October 18 and November 1, respectively. The regular regional elections in Ukraine are scheduled for October 25. EPA/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

KYIV, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Moscow-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions plan to hold referendums on joining Russia in coming days, a challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the war and which drew condemnation from Ukraine and its allies.

  • Four Russia-occupied regions announce referendum plans
  • Votes to be held on whether to become part of Russia
  • Ukraine and the West regard votes as sham and illegal
  • Russian invasion tramples UN charter – Japan PM

By Pavel Polityuk

In the apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian figures announced referendums for Sept. 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory, or an area about the size of Hungary.

“The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday in response to reporters’ questions at the United Nations.

In a tweet, he added: “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.”

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

“Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now hawkish deputy chairman of President Vladimir Putin’s Security Council, said on social media.



Reframing the fighting in occupied territory as an attack on Russia could give Moscow a justification to mobilise its 2 million-strong military reserves. Moscow has so far resisted such a move despite mounting losses in what it calls a limited “special military operation” rather than a war.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington rejected any such referendums “unequivocally”. Washington was aware of reports Putin might be considering ordering a mobilisation, Sullivan said, adding it would do nothing to undermine Ukraine’s ability to push back Russian aggression.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.

Russia now holds about 60% of Donetsk and had captured nearly all of Luhansk by July after slow advances during months of intense fighting.

Those gains are now under threat after Russian forces were driven from neighbouring Kharkiv province this month, losing control of their main supply lines for much of the Donetsk and Luhansk front lines.

Unverified footage on social media showed Ukrainian forces in Bilohorivka, which lies just 10 km (6 miles) west of the Luhansk city of Lysychansk that fell to the Russians after weeks of some of the war’s most intense fighting in July.


“The situation on at the front clearly indicates the initiative is with Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address released early on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s position did not change because of “some noise” from Russia, Zelenskiy added in an apparent reference to the referendums.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc and its member states would not recognise the outcome of the referendums and would consider further measures against Russia if the votes went ahead.

If the referendum plan “wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in New York, where leaders were arriving for a United Nations General Assembly meeting likely to be dominated by the war in Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, addressing the assembly on Tuesday, condemned Russia’s invasion as destabilising the international order to its core.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the UN charter … It should never be tolerated,” Kishida said.

In Kherson, where the regional capital is the only major city Russia has so far captured intact since the invasion, Ukraine has launched a major counter-offensive.

In the south, Russia controls most of Zaporizhzhia but not its regional capital.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia, said becoming part of Russia would help solve the conflict more quickly.

“This will show people with full clarity that Russia is here to stay, forever,” he said on Telegram. “And they will take the necessary decision more quickly, lay down their weapons and cross over to the side of their people, their countrymen.”


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    There have been different excuses for the Russian aggression against Ukraine and its people from liberating Luhansk and Donbass to NATO expansion to denazifying Ukraine. All these have no basis in international law and the UN Charter. Now to incorporate parts of another into Russia is barbarism in the modern era that is justified by its stooges in the ANC and SACP. The Budapest Memorandum of Understanding is also used interchangeably as a pretext for this aggression. No amount of security concerns can justify what Russia is doing.
    The issues Putin raised in the Munich Security Conference platforms for their discussion have been there. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the lies that Russia spreads are not borne by facts. In fact, Ukraine was a subject of concern with regard to corruption and the ratings of its President had plummeted and it was clear that he was going to be voted out. Accession to the EU requires convergence and Ukraine was a long way from accession and acceptance into the EU. These lies are repeated by the SACP a group that has an imaginary relationship with the truth. For Cyril, to mislead this country about negotiations in the Russian aggression against Ukraine is dishonesty! The question is whether the ANC regime would recognise the two “state” Russia intends to carve out of Ukraine or the barbarism of annexing the two regions that would lead to severe sanctions against our country. We salute Ukraine and its stoic people in the face of barbarism.

    • Russ H says:

      Agree 100%-The ANC’s response to the war simply highlight’s their true and evil colours for one second forgetting about their myriad of other evils.

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