what you need to know about referendums in Russian-occupied areas

what you need to know about referendums in Russian-occupied areas
Since September 23, the inhabitants of several Ukrainian regions have been invited to vote for or against annexation by Russia.  An empty ballot at the legal level, but heavy with consequences (photo showing a member of the police forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Lugansk voting this Friday).
ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO / REUTERS Since September 23, the inhabitants of several Ukrainian regions have been invited to vote for or against annexation by Russia. An empty ballot at the legal level, but heavy with consequences (photo showing a member of the police forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Lugansk voting this Friday).

ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO / REUTERS

Since September 23, the inhabitants of several Ukrainian regions have been invited to vote for or against annexation by Russia. An empty ballot at the legal level, but heavy with consequences (photo showing a member of the police forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Lugansk voting this Friday).

WAR IN UKRAINE – Masquerade and escalation. Since this Friday September 23 and until Tuesday, the inhabitants of several zones of Ukraine busy by the Russian troops are invited to pronounce themselves by referendum on annexation by Moscow. Polls without any value in the eyes of the international community and which are organized outside any democratic functioning, but which risk having an influence on the evolution of the conflict.

Indeed, it was already in this way and already without the approval of the rest of the world leaders that the Kremlin had formalized the annexation of Crimea in 2014. A sign that despite their legal vacuity, these votes have a real impact on the lives of those to whom they are presented, and on the integrity of Ukrainian territory.

A way to respond to the Ukrainian counter-offensive

Since this Friday, certain inhabitants of four Ukrainian “oblasts” are therefore concerned by these votes: those who live in the Donbass in the “Republics” separatists of Donetsk and Lugansk (both of which declared their independence before the start of the invasion, without these being recognized), and those of the occupied zones in the regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia, in the south of the country.

The former will be asked the question of ” integration of the Republic into the Russian Federation » when the latter will be entitled to a more complete question: « Are you in favor of secession from Ukraine, the formation of an independent state and its integration into the Russian Federation as a ‘subject’ of the Federation? »

From this Friday September 23, referendums of annexation by Russia are organized in four zones of Ukraine occupied by the Russian troops: in the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in the East, and in sectors of the oblasts of Zaporizhia and Kherson under the domination of Kremlin forces.
Map Sven Teschke / Wikimedia Commons & The HuffPost From this Friday September 23, referendums of annexation by Russia are organized in four zones of Ukraine occupied by the Russian troops: in the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in the East, and in sectors of the oblasts of Zaporizhia and Kherson under the domination of Kremlin forces.

Map Sven Teschke / Wikimedia Commons & The HuffPost

From this Friday September 23, referendums of annexation by Russia are organized in four zones of Ukraine occupied by the Russian troops: in the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in the East, and in sectors of the oblasts of Zaporizhia and Kherson under the domination of Kremlin forces.

Except that if the referendum process has been underway for many months, the deadlines have been considerably accelerated in the face of the advance of the Ukrainian counter-offensive of late summer. Indeed, the objective for Moscow is to formalize this ” desire for annexation from the local populations in order to be able to call any Ukrainian incursion a violation of its territory. And therefore be able to respond militarily.

It is in this sense that in his last televised address, Vladimir Putin hinted that he would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if Russia was attacked. A threat repeated by Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and Moscow representative to the UN.

If all these regions are declared Russian, then Moscow can say that each incursion is a direct attack on its territorial integrity and respond militarily without any reservations. “, warned on Ukrainian television the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, Serhyi Haidai. Because instead of the special operation evoked by Moscow since the beginning of the invasion, the Kremlin would then speak of ” war “.

Door-to-door and vote of the “ refugees »

This is therefore why the elections are organized by Moscow from this Friday (7 a.m. in Paris, 8 a.m. on the spot) and until Tuesday 27 September. A vote that will not take place frankly like a classic election, nor democratic. In Donetsk, the electoral body of pro-Russian separatists said that the ballot would be mainly door-to-door ” for security reasons », that the polling stations would only open on Tuesdays and that there would be only paper ballots and no electronic voting. And no independent observer.

Similarly, the Russian authorities have announced, through national news agencies, that polling stations will be opened in Russia to allow “ refugees having fled Ukraine to be able to speak out. A way also to control the result of the ballot which promises to be largely in favor of annexation.

In 2014, in Crimea, the official results proclaimed 95% approval of joining the Russian Federation. And this Friday, the pro-Russian leaders do not hide it: the vote will give birth to a ” yes to annexation. “ It’s a historic day: we’re going home “, for example, said in a video shared on Telegram, Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Donetsk.

International condemnation

An outcome that Volodymyr Zelensky does not envisage, who took advantage of his daily speech, Thursday evening September 22, to warn the inhabitants of the four regions and the auxiliaries of Moscow. In Russian he said: “Tens of thousands injured and crippled. Do you want more ? Nope ? Well revolt. Or fight (against Moscow, editor’s note). Or run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian troops. These are your only four options to survive. »

This ballot in Ukrainian and Russian was broadcast on Telegram by Vladimir Rogov, who is among the separatist leaders of the Zaporizhia region. He proposes the annexation of the entire oblast, even though Moscow controls only part of it.

It is also a way of repeating, as the United Nations, American President Joe Biden or the French Head of State Emmanuel Macron have already done, that these referendums are illegal, devoid of legal meaning, both at the Ukrainian level and for the international law. Moreover, even if China has expressed reservations about these pollsthis should not be enough to avoid the proclamation of Russian annexation in the days to come.

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