DONBASS. If the international community is unanimous and does not intend to recognize the result of the referendums organized in Ukraine, the consequences in the event of a “victory” of the “Yes” will be anything but anecdotal. Explanations.
[Mis à jour le 22 septembre 2022 à 19h24] From Friday, September 23, 2022, the populations of four Ukrainian regions will be called upon to vote on the annexation referendums organized by the local pro-Russian authorities. Because of the context of war in which these referenda take place, the international community has already made it known that it will pay little attention to the result if it were to approve the annexations.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, thus indicated that kyiv would “continue to liberate its lands”. “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to allegedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press briefing. And the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, to affirm that these polls have “no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Emmanuel Macron noted that “Russia has declared war, invaded this region, it has bombed it, it has killed people, it has made people flee. other people and now, in this same region, she explains that she is going to organize a referendum. If it were not tragic, we could laugh about it”. Denouncing the “cynicism” of Moscow, the French head of state judged that “obviously, [ces référendums ne seront pas reconnus] at the international level and that it will have no legal consequences”. However, the refusal of the international community to recognize these possible annexations will in no way prevent Moscow from considering the referendums and their results as valid, however questionable they may be. Several experts even agree that these votes could be the tool of a new nuclear blackmail…
On Twitter, researcher and specialist in post-Soviet societies, Anna Colin Lebedev, explains that we should not “underestimate what is happening now”. And to develop:[Ces] mock referendums would give a legal basis for Russia to annex them.” Thus, “any Ukrainian attack against these areas would then be an attack on Russian territory According to Russia”.
Do not underestimate what is happening now. Conduct mock referendums in all territories occupied by Russia in the coming days + toughening of disciplinary sanctions against Russian army fighters, in a law voted in emergency. 1/4
— Anna Colin Lebedev (@colinlebedev) September 20, 2022
What to give “a new breath to the nuclear blackmail exercised by Russia”, also confirms the correspondent of the World in Moscow, Benoît Vitkine. And political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya to analyze in the columns of World Also: “It’s an ultimatum absolutely unequivocally from Russia to Ukraine and the West. Either Ukraine retreats or it’s nuclear war. The goal is not to win on the battlefield, but to force kyiv to capitulate.“
Four Ukrainian regions are concerned by the annexation referendums. These are the regions of Donetsk and Luganskwhich together form in the east of the country what is called the Donbass, but also those of Khersonlocated in the South-West, and Zaporizhia, in southern Ukraine. These four regions are particularly affected by the fighting between Russians and Ukrainians. During the referendum on the independence of Ukraine, in 1991, these different regions had however largely voted in favor of the “Yes” (between 80 and 90%), unlike the Crimea, which had distinguished itself with a score particularly low (54%).
The referendums on the annexation by Russia of several regions of Ukraine will take place in a very short time. Indeed, the self-proclaimed and pro-Russian leaders of these regions set the dates for the vote from September 23 to September 27, 2022.
The term used by the pro-Russian authorities being “referendum”, it is a priori the citizens who will be led to decide in favor or against the annexation of their region by Russia. However, in a context of war and occupation, and while many Ukrainians have fled these territories particularly affected by the fighting, the legitimacy of the results already seems to be compromised.
In addition to the response from kyiv, which immediately denounced a “blackmail” solely motivated by “the fear of defeat”, the Westerners did not fail to react. Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, judged “these fictitious referendums” and therefore “not acceptable”. “It is very clear that these mock referendums are not acceptable and are not covered by international law,” he said. For its part, Paris denounced “a parody” and “an additional provocation”. “The only thing that exists is the war decided by Russia, the resistance of Ukraine and the end of the war that we want,” said Emmanuel Macron. Finally, Washington, for its part, accused Moscow of “hastily organizing sham referendums”. “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to allegedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a press briefing.
For several weeks, Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has stalled. Vladimir Putin’s troops are no longer gaining ground, the conflict is bogged down and the Ukrainians have even launched a counter-offensive which seems to be undermining their adversary. Cornered even in his own country, the Russian president thus intends to go through the “democratic” route to achieve his objective: to officially annex the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have been self-proclaimed independent since 2014 and led by a parliament of pro-Russian leaders, although not recognized by the international community. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin had recognized their independence at the time. In the regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia, the Russians now control part of these territories and intend to settle there officially.
There is little doubt that the referendums organized in the different regions should win the “Yes” to annexation by Russia. First of all, the vote is organized on territories already partly controlled by Russians, where the remaining population is rather in agreement with the neighboring country. Moreover, in 2014, during the war in Crimea, a referendum was also organized by Russia during the fighting. Nearly 97% of voters had expressed the wish to see Crimea be attached to Russia. The voters were mostly Russian-speaking. A scenario that could repeat itself in the days to come.