Russia pushes for annexation
Islam News – Officials installed by Moscow in four occupied Ukrainian regions announced plans to hold “referendums” on formally joining Russia, according to state news media. The votes will begin on Friday and last for five days.
The moves are widely seen as a prelude to annexation and a potential escalation of the war. They are also a sign of Moscow’s growing desperation.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine announced efforts to secure recently retaken eastern territory, even as he underlined the importance of continuing to make rapid gains to deny Russia “any foothold on Ukrainian soil.” Annexation — even if unrecognized by the international community — would send a signal that Moscow was prepared to defend the territory as if it were Russia, potentially with nuclear warheads.
“Encroaching on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” Dmitri Medvedev, the former Russian president and an ally of Vladimir Putin, posted on Telegram. Here are live updates.
On Monday, Russia’s propaganda apparatus launched what appeared to be a scripted display meant to show that the upcoming referendums stemmed from a grass-roots desire by the residents. In the space of 36 hours, the “Luhansk People’s Republic” and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” both announced referendums. Yesterday, the occupation authorities of Kherson and Zaporizka — two southern areas — followed suit.
Context: Russia set an annexation precedent when it took control of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That came after a referendum that was widely dismissed as a sham in the West, but which Putin has used to justify his threat that he was ready for war if Ukraine sought to retake the peninsula by force.
The U.S. called the planned votes a “sham.” On social media, Russian hawks, who have been criticizing the Kremlin, celebrated the developments as a possible turning point.
Source: The New York Times