The successful counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Army precipitates the Kremlin’s plans to annex the territories occupied by its troops. And if not with the tanks, it could be through a referendum.
The pro-Russian authorities in the military-occupied territories of Kherson and Zaporizhia have announced the imminent holding of a referendum on joining Russia.
The referendums will be held between September 23 and 27, also in Donestk and Luganks, ahead of the date initially scheduled for November 4.
Lavrov: “Territories that have the right to decide their own destiny”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rushed to make these statements before traveling to New York to participate in the UN General Assembly: “From the beginning of the special military operation, and during the period that preceded it, we already said that the peoples of the affected territories had to decide their own destiny. And the whole current situation confirms it”.
Ukraine, which in two weeks has recovered more territory than that seized by Russia since last April, interprets these referendums as a reflection of Russian panic after seeing how its troops flee, following the lightning offensive launched by Ukraine. An adviser to the Ukrainian president says talk of annexation is like a “sedative” for a Russian people trying to make sense of their losses on the battlefield.
Meanwhile, investigations into possible war crimes perpetrated by Russian troops in Izium continue. In a forest near this recently liberated town, 450 graves and some bodies with signs of torture have been found.
The Ukrainian condemnation was not long in coming. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak assured that “the Kremlin continues to invent sedatives for the Z audience”, alluding to the Russians who support the “special military operation”.
Last night, in his daily speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that “the occupiers are clearly panicking” due to the Ukrainian control of the northeastern region of Kharkov after the Russian withdrawal.
“We have warned the Russian soldiers in Ukraine that they have two options. Either they liberate our land or they surrender. The collaborators have similar options: either they try to escape, and it remains to be seen whether Russia will let them enter its territory despite giving them passports, or they will be sentenced under Ukrainian law,” he said.
Zelenski already warned at the time that if Russia annexed more Ukrainian territory there would be no possibility of negotiations to peacefully settle the current armed conflict.