In challenge to West, Russia rolls out plan to annex swathes of Ukraine ‘in next few days’ | India News


Russian-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions set out plans for referendums on joining Russia, a move Ukraine and its allies dismissed on Monday as a stunt by Moscow to try to reclaim the initiative after battlefield losses.
“The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said in response to reporters’ questions at the start of a meeting with US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he tweeted.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington rejected any such referendums “unequivocally”. French President Macron and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda used the word “parody” to describe the planned votes.
In the apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian figuresannounced planned referendums for September 23-27 in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory or an area about the size of Hungary.
Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied. In a post on social media addressed to Putin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, wrote: “I ask you, as soon as possible, in the event of a positive decision in the referendum which we have no doubt about — to consider the DPR becoming a part of Russia. ”
Some pro-Kremlin figures framed the referendums as an ultimatum to the West to accept Russian territorial gains or face an all-out war with a nuclear-armed foe. “Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now hawkish deputy chairman of Putin’s Security Council said on social media.
But the US and Nato allies that have been backing Ukraine with weapons and other support said such plebiscites would be meaningless. If the referendum plan “wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,” Macron told reporters in New York, where leaders were arriving for a UN meeting. “Russia started the war, invaded this region, bombed people, madepeople flee and now they are saying in this very region it’s going to organise a referendum,” Macron said. A spokesman for Lithuania’s Nauseda quoted him as saying: “It’s an attempt to cover the true face of the totalitarian regime. ”
Reframing fighting in occupied territory as an attack on Russia could also give Moscow ajustification to mobilise its 2 million-strong military reserves. Moscow has so far resisted such a move despite mounting losses. Sullivan said Washington was aware of such an intention, which Sullivan said would do nothing to undermine Ukraine’s ability to push back Russian aggression.


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