To challenge the West, Russia launches plan to annex large swathes of Ukraine

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, attends the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2022, marking the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File photo

Sign up now for free unlimited access to

  • Russian separatists plan referendum in Ukraine
  • Vote will allow Russia to annex 15% of Ukraine
  • The West will face a potential battle with Russia
  • Ukraine says Russia is afraid
  • Russian parliament passes law on mobilization crimes

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday backed plans by separatists to hold a referendum in Ukraine that would pave the way for the annexation of more territory, a direct challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the conflict.

After nearly seven months of war, including a serious battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine, Putin is considering his next move.

In what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated request, Russian-backed officials on 15 percent of Ukraine — an area the size of Hungary or Portugal — lined up for a referendum on joining more

Sign up now for free unlimited access to

The self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Putin recognized as independent before the invasion, and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions demanded a vote in less than 24 hours.

Officials in Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson said the referendum would be held in just a few days — on Friday, September 9. September 23 to Monday. 27. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions, and only about 60% of the Donetsk region is in Russian hands.

When asked about the referendum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “From the very beginning of the operation… we said that the people of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms them Want to be masters of the world. Their destiny.”

If Moscow formally annexes a chunk of additional territory in Ukraine, Putin is essentially letting the United States and its European allies risk a direct military confrontation with the world’s largest nuclear power, Russia.

“All this talk of an immediate referendum is Russia’s absolutely clear ultimatum to Ukraine and the West,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis firm R.Politik.

‘Western fear referendum’

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, supported the referendum, which he said would change the course of Russian history and allow the Kremlin more options to defend what he said. will become Russian territory.

“Violating Russian territory is a crime and it allows you to use all your self-defense,” Medvedev said in a Telegram post. “That’s why Kyiv and the West are so afraid of these referendums.”

“It is also important that no future Russian leader, no official, can overturn these decisions after the amendments to our country’s constitution.”

If weapons of mass destruction are used against Russia, or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons, Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows such weapons to be used.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, said he would support the incorporation of parts of Ukraine that voted to join Russia.

Ukraine said the threat of the referendum was a “childish blackmail” in a sign Russia was afraid.

“This is what the fear of failure looks like,” said Andrei Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “The enemy is afraid and is primitively confusing.”

“Ukraine will solve the Russian problem. The threat can only be eliminated by force.”

Ukraine says it will not rest until all Russian soldiers have been expelled from its territory. Kyiv said it would never accept Russian control over its territory and called on the West to provide more and better weapons to counter Russian forces.

Greater conflict?

US President Joe Biden warned in March that a direct confrontation between the NATO military alliance and Russia would mean a third world war. Biden and NATO leaders have been careful to say they do not want NATO forces in direct conflict with Russian forces.

Still, Putin and top Russian generals and officials have viewed the conflict as a broader contest with the West, which they say has sent Ukraine advanced weapons and helped guide Ukrainian forces through intelligence and training that ultimately killed Russia army.

Putin on Friday brushed aside Ukraine’s lightning-fast counter-offensive in recent weeks, dismissing the conflict as an attempt to stop what he said was a conspiracy by the West to carve up and destroy more

Russia’s parliament approved a bill on Tuesday to strengthen penalties for a range of crimes committed during military mobilization or combat, such as desertion, damage to military property and more

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was overthrown in Ukraine’s Independence Square revolution, Russia annexed Crimea, and Russia-backed Donbas separatists (led by Donetsk and Donetsk) Luhansk) tried to break free from the hold of Kyiv.

Crimea, largely ethnically Russian, was handed over to Ukraine during the Soviet era after Russian troops took control of it on February 2. On February 27, 2014, a referendum to join Russia was held on March 16.

Crimea’s leader declared secession from Ukraine with 97 percent of the vote. Russia officially joined Crimea on March 21. Kyiv and the West said the referendum violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law.

Sign up now for free unlimited access to

Reporting in Reuters; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Raissa Kasolowsky, Angus MacSwan and Alex Richardson

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link