KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine on Tuesday announced plans to begin voting this week to become integral parts of Russia. The Kremlin-backed concerted and quick effort to swallow the four sectors could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
The timing of the referendums in Luhansk, Kherson and the partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk regions starting Friday is needed and since Moscow is losing ground in the invasion, a close aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Started about seven months ago. Pressure is mounting on the Kremlin for a strong response.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, headed by Putin, said in the referendum that the diversion of territories in Russia would make the redrawn borders “irreversible” and that Moscow would need “anyone to protect them”. also means” will be enabled to use.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba denounced the votes as a sham and tweeted that “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to free them whatever Russia has to say.”
The vote, in an area that Russia already controls, is sure to go the way of Moscow, but is unlikely to be recognized by Western governments that have been backing Ukraine with military and other support, which has bolstered its military. helped to gain momentum on the battlefields in the East and South.
In Donetsk, part of Ukraine’s wider Donbass region that has been hit by insurgent fighting since 2014 and which Putin has determined as the primary object of the invasion, separatist leader Denis Pushilin said the vote was a “long-standing” landmark of the region. Justice will be restored. victims.”
They have earned “the right to be part of the great country that they always considered their homeland,” he said.
In partly Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya, pro-Russian activist Vladimir Rogov said: “The faster we become part of Russia, the sooner peace will come.”
Pressure from Moscow-backed leaders inside Russia and in Ukrainian territories for the vote that Moscow control escalated following a Ukrainian retaliation – strengthened by Western-supplied weapons – that has recaptured large areas.
Abbas Galyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter and Russian political analyst, said on Facebook that Moscow-backed separatists “appeared to be afraid that the Russians would abandon them” amid the Ukrainian invasion and with plans for a referendum to force the Kremlin’s hand. Grow.
In another sign that Russia is digging in for a protracted and potentially raging conflict, the lower house of the Kremlin-controlled parliament voted on Tuesday to toughen laws against abandonment, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce a possible 10-year prison sentence for soldiers who refuse to fight. If approved by the Upper House as required and then signed by Putin, the law would strengthen the hands of commanders against failing morale among soldiers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no possibility of a diplomatic solution. Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008-2012, said on his messaging app channel that the separatist region’s votes were crucial to protecting its residents and would “completely change” Russia’s future trajectory.
Medvedev said, “After their occupation and new territories being taken under the fold of Russia, a geopolitical transformation of the world will become irreversible.”
“An encroachment on Russia’s territory is a crime that would warrant any means of self-defense,” he said, adding that Russia would include new territories in its constitution so that no future Russian leader could give them back.
“That’s why they are so afraid of referendums in Kyiv and in the West,” said Medvedev. “That’s why they should be held.”
Volodymyr Fesenko, chief Ukrainian analyst at the independent Penta Center think-tank based in Kyiv, said the Kremlin expects the vote and the prospect of a military increase will increase pressure from Western governments on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to begin talks with Moscow.
The move “reflects the weakness, not the strength, of the Kremlin, which is struggling to find a lever to influence a situation that has rapidly spiraled out of its control,” he said.
The recapture of territory, particularly in the northeastern Kharkiv region, has bolstered Ukraine’s argument that its troops could deliver a more severe defeat to Russia with an additional armament delivery.
Slovenia has promised 28 tanks and Germany has pledged four additional self-propelled howitzers, with more heavy weapons to come. Even more aid is expected from Britain, already one of Ukraine’s biggest military backers, expected to be promised by US-British Prime Minister Liz Truss that in 2023, her government will receive 2.3 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) in military aid. ) to “match or exceed”. Given to Ukraine this year.
The swiftness of the Ukrainian counter-attack caused the Russian army to abandon armored vehicles and other weapons, as they decided to retreat in a hurry. Ukrainian forces are recycling captured weapons back into combat. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said the abandoned Russian T-72 tanks are being used by Ukrainian forces to push into Russian-occupied Luhansk.
In the wake of retaliation, Ukrainian authorities found hundreds of graves near the once-occupied city of Izium. Yevgeny Yesenin, deputy minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, told a national broadcast that authorities found several bodies with “signs of violent death”.
“These are broken ribs and broken heads, men with tied hands, broken jaws and severed genitalia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said its troops sank a Russian boat carrying troops and weapons across the Dnieper River near the Russian-occupied city of Nova Kakhovka. It did not provide any other details on the attack in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, which has been a major target in Ukrainian retaliation.
Ukraine’s presidential office said three civilians were killed and 19 others were injured in fresh shelling in the span of 24 hours.
The British military said Moscow may have moved its Kilo-class submarines from its station on the Crimean peninsula to southern Russia as they feared being killed by long-range Ukrainian fire.
– McDonald’s restaurant in Kyiv resumes service for the first time since the invasion, initially offering only delivery service, but marking a step back towards the life the Ukrainians knew before the war.
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