Putin is making a play to try and ‘legally’ take parts of Ukraine: When countries carry out illegal elections to maintain power, they often claim a favorable vote total of more than 90%. So it should come as no surprise that Moscow’s fake referendums in four Ukrainian provinces that they don’t even fully control found that 97% of people voted in favor of joining Russia.
When the Russians illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, another hastily organized referendum was conducted. There as well, the Russians claimed that 97% of voters backed annexation, which was ratified by Russian lawmakers within a week.
In another sham election, Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, announced that he was on the winning end of a presidential election in 2020, garnering 93.6% of the vote. The opposition’s main leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to flee Belarus to neighboring Lithuania.
Ignoring international law, armed FSB personnel coerced citizens to vote in Russian-occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson provinces. The polls have already been condemned as fake by Ukraine and many other Western nations. The four provinces comprise about 18% of Ukraine’s territory.
This opens the door for Russian President Vladimir Putin to move to annex those provinces officially. Putin is scheduled to address a joint session of the Russian Parliament on Friday. The UK Ministry of Defense, in its daily intelligence assessment, said that annexation now appears imminent.
“There is a realistic possibility that Putin will use his address to formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. The referendums currently underway within these territories are scheduled to conclude on 27 September,” the Ministry tweeted on Tuesday.
“Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict,” it added.
Ukraine Vote: No One Is Taking the Bait
Despite the Russian government insisting that the vote was conducted legally, the blowback has been unmistakable. Naturally, the United States and the West have already and accurately characterized the vote as a sham.
But it is surprising to see close Russian allies conclude the same. Serbia has already said that it will not recognize the referendums. Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said that to recognize the referendums would be “completely contrary” to Serbia’s policy of “preserving territorial integrity and sovereignty and … commitment to the principle of inviolability of borders.”
Kazakhstan, another one of Russia’s close allies, said it will not recognize the referendums held in Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry stated on Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said, “As for the holding of referendums … Kazakhstan proceeds from the principles of territorial integrity of states, their sovereign equivalence, and peaceful coexistence.”
Rather Than Voting in Fake Referendums, Ukrainians Flee
Reuters has interviewed many Ukrainian citizens who fled the southern provinces as Russia tried to coerce people to vote in the referendums. And they all seem to paint the same picture.
“They can announce anything they want. Nobody voted in the referendum except a few people who switched sides. They went from house to house, but nobody came out,” Lyubomir Boyko, from the Kherson area, said.
Speaking with reporters after fleeing the Russian occupation, he added, “It’s funny. Nobody voted, yet the results are in.”
Other people related that almost no one was voting or answering doors as Russian poll workers and armed security personnel tried to coerce people to vote. The line of vehicles fleeing the occupied zones stretched for miles.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former president who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said on the Telegram channel app, “The results are clear. Welcome home to Russia!”
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.