A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint strategic exercises of the armed forces (Image courtesy: Office of the President of Russia)
The stage seems to be set for four Ukrainian regions to formally join Russia with the Duma, the country’s lower house of parliament, planning to hold two plenary meetings early next week in order to adopt legislative changes necessary in connection with the referendums held in Donbas.
Starting September 23, residents of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson – territories recognised by Moscow or controlled by its forces – conducted a five-day referendum which ended Tuesday.
Revealing “the will” of the inhabitants of Donbas, Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said today that they have confirmed their choice of the future with Russia. He stated that in Donetsk the step was supported by 99.23% of voters, in Luhansk by 98.42%, in the Zaporozhye region by 93.11% and in the Kherson region, 87.05% voted to become part of Russia.
“The will of the citizens living in the territory of the LPR, DPR, Kherson region, as well as Zaporizhia, confirmed the choice. We knew the position of our compatriots. Now all decisions must be formalized,” said Volodin.
It was reported earlier that Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to address both houses of the parliament on Friday. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence believed that there is a “realistic possibility” that Putin will use his address to formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
“Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict,” it said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
However, the Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told media in Moscow on Wednesday that Putin does not plan to address the Russians on the subject of the past referendums and is also is no hurry to meet with the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
As and when Putin decides to include new territories in Russia, the four regions will be protected by Russian law.
Meanwhile, the United States has said that it is prepared to impose additional “severe and swift costs on Russia for proceeding with the annexations” through “sham” referendums.
“Russia invaded Ukraine, seized territory, and is engaged in a diabolical scheme on some of the territory seized, where it has moved the local populous out, often through these filtration centers – where people may be deported to Russia, elsewhere in Ukraine, or they simply disappear – then they bus Russians in, they install puppet governments, and then they engage in the referendum and manipulate, in any event, the outcome to then claim that the territory belongs to Russia through annexation,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he addressed media in Washington on Tuesday with India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
The European Union also on Wednesday evening said that Putin is “doubling down on a failing strategy” and proposed additional restrictive measures against those supporting, facilitating, or benefiting from the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
“We condemn these illegal referenda in the strongest possible terms. I am sure that I can speak on behalf of the Member States of the European Union that none of them will recognise their falsified outcome, and we call on the international community to do the same, because these sham ‘referenda’ are a pure violation of international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter,” said EU High Representative Josep Borrell while announcing a new package of restrictive measures against Russia.