On 20 September, Russian separatists of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), which were recognized as independent states by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced their plans to hold a “referendum” on accession to Russia from September 23 to 27.
The world leaders have immediately reacted to Russia’s move to annex occupied parts of Ukraine.
- “This is Russia’s attempt to legitimize its illegal military control and aims to forcibly change Ukraine’s borders in clear violation of the UN Charter and Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” said the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in a statement. He noted that the results of referendums would be null and void and would not be recognized by the EU and its Member States.
“Since the start of the invasion, Russia has intimidated, illegally detained, tortured, and abducted Ukrainian citizens and a significant part of the original population in the invaded areas has been forced to flee. Legally elected local officials have, in some cases, been forcibly replaced. Access to the internet, free and independent media, and freedom of expression have also been greatly restricted. Therefore, these illegal “votes” cannot be considered under any circumstance as the free expression of the will of the people living in these regions under constant Russian military threat and intimidation,” Borrell underlined and added that there would be additional restrictive measures against Russia.
- The US will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “If Russia does stage these sham “referenda”, the United States and the international community will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purportedly-annexed parts of Ukraine.”
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also condemned the “referendum” in occupied territories. “Canada denounces Russia’s planned “referendums” in occupied regions of Ukraine. We will never recognize them. This is a blatant violation of international law. It is a further escalation of the war. And it is unacceptable.”
- “Sham referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This is a further escalation in Putin’s war,” Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg stated. He called the international community to condemn the blatant violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine.