The referendums have been backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and come after nearly seven months of the war, and a critical battlefield defeat suffered by Moscow in northeastern Ukraine this month.
Four areas of Ukraine – controlled by Russia and pre-Moscow forces – are preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia on Friday. Russia’s plan to annex around 15% of Ukrainian territory via referendums comes after Russian-installed leaders in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces announced plans for the votes which are expected to be held from Friday to Tuesday. The referendums have been backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and come after nearly seven months of the war, and a critical battlefield defeat suffered by Moscow in northeastern Ukraine this month.
Here are the top 10 points:
1) While the West has criticised the move to be a gross violation of international law that could further escalate the ongoing war, Russia has argued that it is an opportunity for people in the region to express their views.
“From the very start of the operation … we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their fate,” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had said.
2) Ukraine has accused Russia of intending to frame the referendum results as a sign of popular support, and then use them as a pretext for annexation, a move, it said, was similar to its takeover of Crimea in 2014.
3) Ukraine and its allies have already made clear they will not recognise the results.
4) In a counteroffensive this month, Ukraine recaptured large swathes of territory, nearly seven months after Russia invaded the country and launched a war that has killed thousands and displaced millions.
5) It is being said that Ukraine’s recent victories have prompted pro-Moscow authorities to scramble for the vote even as the referendums had been under discussion for months now.
6) In face of significant defeats in Ukraine, Putin this week announced a military draft to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, in what appears to be an attempt to regain the upper hand in the conflict.
7) By incorporating the four areas into Russia, Moscow could justify military escalation as necessary to defend its territory, news agency Reuters said.
8) The Russian President on Wednesday said Moscow would “use all the means at our disposal” to protect itself, an apparent reference to nuclear weapons. “This is not a bluff,” he said.
“Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russian president from 2008 to 2012, said in a post on Telegram on Tuesday.
“This is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and the West.”
9) The referendums have been denounced by world leaders including US President Joe Biden, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and French President Emmanuel Macron among others.
The “sham referenda” are “illegal and illegitimate,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO – an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – said Thursday.
10) The referendum in Crimea in 2014, criticized internationally as rigged, had an official result of 97% in favour of formal annexation.
(With Reuters inputs)