Ukraine War: Russia holding referendums in occupied areas

Vladimir Putin is struggling after a seven-month-long battle. In the months following Russia’s invasion on February 24th, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has regained large areas of land.

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Vladimir Putin is struggling after a seven-month-long battle. In the months following Russia’s invasion on February 24th, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has regained large areas of land.

Putin is under pressure from hardliners to respond, and supporting referendums in the style of Crimea (Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014) gives his detractors a response.

Russian media has already reported on polls that indicate there is strong support for joining Russia in the four regions, but these polls are just as fake and unreliable as elections staged in the midst of hostilities.

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The international community has rejected them as a fake, but President Putin may believe that designating occupied areas as Russian territory could alter the direction of the conflict by allowing him to order Ukraine’s Western backers to stop providing the weapons used to attack “Russian” lands.

Ukrainian defence ministry adviser Yuriy Sak told the BBC the so-called referendums were doomed. “We are seeing that local populations are all in favour of returning to Ukraine, and this is why there’s so much guerrilla movement resistance in these territories.”

In any case, Kyiv claims that nothing will change and that its forces will keep working to liberate the regions.

Ukraine’s army is unlikely to be stopped by simply redesigning the conquered areas as Russian property, but it does signal purpose to the people they are in control of, according to Russia analyst Alexander Baunov. The Kremlin also hopes that the West will recoil at having its weapons launched against territory that Moscow has annexed as Russia.

It is concerning that President Putin has mentioned utilising all available means “to protect Russia.” And in case there was still any lingering uncertainty, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s security council, made it plain that nuclear weapons might also be deployed to defend annexation zones.