On 20 September, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed “governor” of Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast, announced a “referendum” on joining Russia is to be held in the occupied territories of Kherson Oblast.
He noted that he was “sure” that Russia would accept the results of this sham plebiscite and that it is necessary to create “volunteer battalions” for Russia’s war against Ukraine, where Russia experiences a lack of manpower amid low morale.
Kremlin-controlled RIA Novosti reported that the “referendum” is slated for 23-27 September. Earlier on 20 September, RIA Novosti informed that a “public council” of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region had appealed to Saldo with an initiative to “immediately” hold a “referendum” on joining Russia. It will include “online voting,” RIA said quoting the “authorities of the region.”
A similar scenario is unfolding in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where, similarly, a “public convention” has addressed the Russian-appointed “head” of the region with a request to urgently hold a “referendum” on joining Russia, and it is slated to take place also on 23-27 September.
A top quisling of occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast said that after the “referendum” is held on occupied territories, Russia will continue to “liberate” the rest of the region, RIA Novosti reported.
Yesterday, analogous processes took place on territories Russia has been occupying since 2014 – the “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics,” which, similarly, saw “appeals” of Russian proxy councils to the Russian-appointed heads of the regions. Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, welcomed these proposals that are expected to pave the way for the annexation of these territories, stating that it will give Russia more possibility to “defend” the Ukrainian lands it occupies.
Russia had recognized the “independence” of its proxy statelets in eastern Ukraine on the eve of launching its full-scale invasion on 22 February 2022.
In previous months, Russia’s quislings in Ukraine had announced these “referenda” on multiple occasions, yet local resistance and attacks of partisan groups on local collaborators organizing the illegitimate plebiscites had forced the occupation administrations to postpone them. The Institute for Study of War had reported that the resistance prevents Russia from gaining a veneer of local support for annexation that it seeks and delays the effort to annex the occupied territories.
Another chief Kherson quisling, Kirill Stremousov, claimed on 5 September that the oblast is “ready” for a “referendum” on joining Russia but is putting the process on pause due to the “security situation.” This happened amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive that had since that time taken off and in the course of five days freed more land in Kharkiv Oblast than Russia had gained since April in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have dismissed plans for the referenda as legally void.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, stated that they will not stop Ukraine from destroying Russian troops. “Russians decided to respond asymmetrically to Ukrainian counteroffensive. Thinking that an illegal ‘referendum’ will stop HIMARS and the Armed Forces from destroying occupiers on our land. Do you really want to spend the time needed to escape for a new show? Try…It will be interesting…” he wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Ukraine will keep liberating its lands. “Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization’. Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization’. Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) September 20, 2022