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Analysis

Ukraine’s Ethnic Russians Taking Final Steps to Join Russia

Sunday 25 September 2022
Ukraine’s Ethnic Russians Taking Final Steps to Join Russia

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Alwaght- As the seventh month of Ukraine war comes to an end, the breakaway eastern and southern regions of Ukraine hold their referendums to make an important decision on their political future. For years aspiring to join the Russian Federation, the ethnic Russians started their vote on Friday. People of Luhansk and Donetsk in the east and Kherson and Zaporozhye in the south are going to the polls, which were condemned by Kiev and its Western allies, to decide if they want to join Russia. The voting process is scheduled to continue to Tuesday and official results will be announced on Thursday. These four regions, now under the Russian control, account for 15 percent of the Ukrainian territory. If the people choose to join Russia, Ukraine would lose its position as the largest European country. Given the fact that a majority of their population are ethnic Russians, the four regions will very likely vote overwhelmingly in favor of becoming part of the Russian Federation. 

Western allegations against Russia 

The plebiscite comes as the West seeks to increase its military aids to Ukraine by accusing Russia of occupation. The aids seek to give Kiev more modern weapons to enable recapture of part of the seized lands. Suggesting that the referendum only fuels the Ukraine conflict, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that the "shameful" vote has no legitimacy and does not change the nature of Ukraine war. Although the Western countries with this massive propaganda accuse Russia of running the vote process, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic Leonid Pasechnik said that the people were waiting such vote since 2014 and this makes a common dream and future with Russia. When Crimea Peninsula voted to join Russia in 2014, the eastern regions made a similar request but their bid did not go ahead to avoid further tensions between Russia and the West. But now that they find the opportunity ripe as the international conditions have changed and Ukraine is on the Western camp, they seek full separation to get rid of the Kiev government pressures. Donetsk and Luhansk regions were practically governed autonomously since 2014 and were not under control of Ukraine, and in these eight years there was always a conflict between the forces of the two sides, and now that the conditions have changed, they started the independence referendum. 

The anti-Russian allegations and promises not to recognize eastern Ukraine independence are meant to build world pressures on Moscow, a rival they accuse of occupation. But Russia has responded to calls for help by the ethnic Russians and President Vladimir Putin asserted that the "special military operation" in Ukraine was to de-Nazify Donbas region that covers Luhansk and Donetsk. Before the order for operation, he signed into law recognition of independence of the two republics. By backing the ethnic Russians and annexing the eastern and southern Ukraine regions, Russia aims at raising costs of Kiev that brought Moscow and the West at each other's throats with its impudence. Support for Russians across the world was asserted under new Russian doctrine recently unveiled. Putin seems to plan liberation of all of the ethnic Russians living under pressure in other countries. 

Russia responds to Donbas people's calls 

Russian forces fought in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine and seized them in the past seven months but they did not annex them and left the choice to their people to decide on this decisive issue. To take the excuses from the West, Kremlin officials said they annex the breakaway regions only if they decide to join the Russian Federation, but if the majority vote against this, Moscow would stop at recognition of their independence. If Russia wanted to, it could have easily annexed Donbas to its territory through a referendum in 2014, but it did not have such a plan and is not pursuing this goal now, and has only responded to the wishes of the people of these regions. Holding a referendum by the ethnic Russians, on the other hand, can create legal legitimacy for Russia's operation in Ukraine, which has waged war in Ukraine in defense of the Donbass people who asked Moscow for help. 

300,000 reservists mobilization 

Along with the Donbas region's referendum, Russia mobilized 300,000 of its reserve forces in a show of strength in the face of Ukraine and the West. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu immediately after signing the order said that the recalled reservists account for less than 1 percent of the reserve resources of the country. Shoigu added that it does not include the university students and only covers the army reservists and those with needed expertise. Commenting on the tremendous Western support to Ukraine, the defense minister said that 70 armies, 200 civilian satellites, and the whole NATO are working to Ukraine interests. He noted that Russia is not just at war with Ukraine but with the whole Western bloc. 

The Russian mobilization comes as Europe and the US in recent weeks provided Kiev with more advanced weaponry, arousing the ire of Moscow. Moscow warned more than once that these military aids not only do not help the peace process, but also lead to the escalation of tensions and demanded their cessation, but Western leaders ignore these warnings and continue to send arms. Still, Russia, which sees itself alone in front of the West, is trying to use everything at its disposal to confront its rivals, and the call for 300,000 forces shows that Moscow has designed new plans for the war. 

Given the recent Putin warning that if the West and Ukraine violate the Russian sovereignty, Moscow will use all means to respond, use of nuclear weapons is not unthinkable. Kremlin officials have repeatedly said they have no intention to use their nukes in Ukraine but they would use them if their sovereignty is jeopardized. Therefore, should the breakaway regions join Russia, any Ukrainian attacks on them would be considered an attack on the Russian territories and trigger Moscow's different response. 

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Luhansk Donetsk Referendum Ukraine War Russia

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