The ruling United Russia party plans the vote for 4 November in the occupied Donbas, Kherson, Zaporiyia and Nikolayev regions, and Zelensky warns that, if it happens, he will resign from future negotiations

Russia plans to hold several accession referendums in Ukraine

AP/OLEXANDR CHORNYI - People shout at Russian army soldiers during a demonstration against the Russian occupation at Svobody (Freedom) Square in Kherson, Ukraine, 7 March 2022

Russia's persistence to hold an accession referendum in Ukraine continues unabated. The party led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, United Russia, has proposed holding several simultaneous referendums in the provinces occupied by Russian troops to decide on their accession to the Federation. These include the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which make up the Donbas, and other regions such as Kherson, Zaporiyia and Nikolayev.

The date chosen is no coincidence. On 4 November, when the referendum is scheduled to be held, Russia celebrates National Unity Day, a holiday commemorating the popular uprising that led to the expulsion of Polish troops from Moscow in the 17th century, which is considered a "symbolic date" by the party.


Prior to the referendum, a referendum is expected to be held in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories on 11 September, the day of municipal elections in Russia.

"Donetsk, Lugansk and many other Russian cities will finally regain their home. And the Russian command, now divided by formal borders, will regain its integrity," announced Andrei Turchak, secretary of the party's General Council.


Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky has warned that if this "pseudo-referendum" is held, Kiev will renounce any future negotiations with Moscow. His presidential adviser, Miajilo Podoliak, has ironised the Kremlin's proposal on Twitter, likening it to the same Russian claims that failed in the past. 

The EU has also condemned Russia's plans to hold what it described as an "orchestrated and illegitimate referendum". "The European Union strongly condemns any attempt by the Russian Federation to hold an illegal referendum that seeks to create an illegitimate alternative to the administrative structures in Ukraine," EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told Europa Press.

Stano stressed that holding such referendums would represent a "flagrant violation" of international law and the Ukrainian constitution, for which the Kremlin and other political actors involved "will be held accountable".


However, the referendum proposal in Ukraine is not new; Russia has been trying to hold the plebiscite on other occasions. Most recently, just a few days ago, the pro-Russian authorities in the Kherson region wanted to hold the referendum "as soon as possible", but the Ukrainian counter-attack forced the plans to be postponed.

The same sense of failure was felt last May when the self-proclaimed leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk carried out a referendum that was summed up by chaotic scenes of voting without electoral registers, despite Putin's call for a postponement. In Mariupol only four polling stations opened in what is a city of half a million people. An attempt to illegally proclaim non-Russian sovereignty, as they did in 2014 to seize the Crimean peninsula.


The announcement of these referendums comes, moreover, as no surprise. Both UK and US intelligence had already warned about the Kremlin's preparation of "various fake referendums" in the regions under its control. According to the US State Department's assessment, Russia had orchestrated the manipulation of the referendum results and claims that Ukrainians want to join Moscow's regime.

The announcement of these referendums coincides with the Ukrainian advance in the conflict, and Kherson's counter-offensive is proof of this. According to experts, Ukraine now has the strategic initiative for the first time, taking ground on both the northern and southern fronts. While the Russians moved their troops to defend the encirclement of Kherson, the Ukrainians broke through the northern front in Kharkov.

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