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Ukraine: pro-Russians urgently call annexation referendums by Russia

The Ukrainian presidency has sworn to "liquidate" the Russian threat.

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Ukraine: pro-Russians urgently call annexation referendums by Russia

The Ukrainian presidency has sworn to "liquidate" the Russian threat.

The separatist powers of the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk both announced these votes, as did that of Kherson (south), occupied by the Russian army. These polls will take place as Ukraine enters its 8th month of war and all these areas are the subject of fighting and bombardments.

A similar initiative by the occupation authorities is also underway in areas under Russian control in the neighboring region of Zaporizhya (southeast).

These referendums, on the model of the one which formalized the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea (south) by Russia in 2014, denounced by the international community, have been the subject of preparations for several months.

The timetable seems to have accelerated due to the Ukrainian counter-offensive which forced the Russian army to retreat to the northeast of the country.

Indeed, President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party was targeting him on November 4, the day of Russian National Unity, which commemorates a 17th-century popular revolt against Polish forces in Moscow.

It was the head of the self-proclaimed "Parliament" of Lugansk, Denis Miroshnichenko who was the first to announce that the ballot would take place, over four days from Friday.

- Blackmail and Russian reverses -

"The Council of the Nation decides to set the dates for the vote for the referendum from September 23 to September 27, 2022," he said, as quoted by the official Lugansk news portal.

Soon after, the official Donetsk news agency announced an identical timetable, followed by the head of the Kherson occupation administration, Vladimir Saldo.

Ukraine warned on Tuesday that the Russian threat would be "liquidated", the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriï Yermak, denouncing the planned referendums as Russian "blackmail" motivated by "fear of defeat".

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba assured that Ukraine would "continue to liberate its lands whatever Russia says".

The announcements come as Russia suffered severe setbacks in early September, withdrawing from the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine in the face of a breakthrough by kyiv forces, strong in supplies of Western weapons and military equipment.

The Ukrainian army has also launched a counter-offensive on the Kherson region in the south. It is less dazzling, but kyiv is also recording gains there.

It is also on the offensive in the Lugansk region (east), which Moscow had conquered in its entirety in the spring at the cost of months of deadly fighting.

For example, kyiv hopes to retake the village of Bilogorivka, whose conquest had cost Russia dearly in May, its troops and equipment having been decimated while trying to cross the Siverskiï Donets river there. The images of destroyed tanks had gone around the world.

On Tuesday morning, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and current number two of the Russian Security Council was the first to call for referendums on the annexation of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions to be held as soon as possible.

- Nuclear weapon -

The referendums in the Donbass "are of great importance (...) for the restoration of historical justice", declared Mr. Medvedev in particular on Telegram, Moscow considering Ukraine as historically Russian.

"Encroaching on the territory of Russia is a crime and if committed, it allows you to use all forces in self-defense," he added.

For independent Russian analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, the holding of these votes is a clear threat from Putin to Ukraine and the West which helps kyiv and sanctions Russia.

"Putin is ready to hold the referendums without delay to have the right to use atomic weapons to defend Russian territory", estimates on Telegram this expert who directs the R.Politik analysis center.

The separatist regimes of Donetsk and Lugansk were set up with the help of the Kremlin in 2014. Vladimir Putin had recognized their independence from Ukraine in February, justifying his invasion in the wake of the need to protect a Russian-speaking population.

At the same time, the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, passed a law considerably toughening the prison sentences for Russian soldiers who surrender to the enemy, desert or commit looting.

Receiving the credentials of new ambassadors, Mr. Putin promised on Tuesday to continue his “sovereign” foreign policy and denounced the desire for American “hegemony” before the United Nations General Assembly which opens on Tuesday.

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