Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine
Multiple Kremlin-backed authorities in eastern and southern Ukraine have announced referendums on joining Russia will be held this week.
While previous plans for such a vote have been delayed, there was a flurry of announcements Tuesday from Russian-backed officials in occupied regions in Ukraine — all set on voting from Sept. 23 to Sept. 27.
Kherson: Russian-backed head of the Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said he “signed a decree” for the referendum, which also established the procedure for organizing voting and “measures of administrative and criminal liability for violation of these rules.” Parts of Kherson are on the front lines between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Luhansk People’s Republic: The leader of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, also signed a law on a referendum. According to the text, “the Central Election Commission of the LPR will determine the results of the referendum on the Republic’s entry into the LPR no later than five days after the last voting day,” according to local media portal Lug-Info.
Donetsk People’s Republic: The self-declared DPR agreed to hold a referendum and the head said he wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him for the rapid accession of the republic to the Russian Federation once a referendum is held.
Zaporizhzhia: The so-called National Congress of Citizens of the Zaporizhzhia Region has approved a referendum, said Vladimir Rogov, a senior pro-Russian official in occupied Zaporizhzhia. “Technically, we are ready. Security of polling stations is ensured. Our borders are reliably protected by the Russian military,” said Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russian-appointed head of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration
Ukrainian response: Ukrainian officials condemned these announcements. The Foreign Ministry said the “fake plebiscites” will not change the “administrative-territorial structure and internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.” The ministry called the vote “forced citizenship” of residents and said it is “another attempt of Russia to legitimize the consequences of its aggressive war against Ukraine.”
Russian response: The announcements have received swift support from Russian politicians. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has publicly endorsed referenda in the self-declared Donbas republics, saying it will have “huge significance” for “systemic protection” of the residents. “Not one future leader of Russia, not one official will be able to reverse these decisions,” he added.
US response: The Pentagon said that announcements are “simply an information operation that’s meant to distract from the difficult state that the Russian military currently finds itself in.” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield also condemned the moves on Tuesday.