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“Sham” referendums will be held as Russia tries to tighten its grip on the Ukrainian territory it currently occupies.
On September 20 the guard reported that the Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk to the east and Zaporizhia and Kherson to the south would each hold a so-called referendum on the issue of annexation by Russia.
But the move comes at a time when Russia is losing control of the territory it has invaded and occupied.
After Ukrainian counter-attacks on the ground, Russia has lost much of its territory in Donetsk in a relatively short period of time.
Ukrainian forces have driven most of the Russian forces out of the northern region near the city of Kharkiv, captured the Izyum transport hub and are fighting for control of the strategic city of Kupiansk.
The Ukrainians have also captured the small village of Bilohorivka near Lysychansk in Luhansk, a small but symbolic advance that will deny Russia full occupation of the province.
Meanwhile, Russian forces have reportedly fired on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant repeatedly and another Ukrainian offensive is likely underway in the Kherson region.
The referendums are likely to be manipulated, as evidenced by a Russian collaborator in Zaporizhzhya, who apparently predicted the outcome even before the polls were held.
BREAKING: Zaporizhzhya’s pro-Russian governor Vladimir Rogov announces Zaporizhzhya will declare independence after referendum
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) September 20, 2022
US does not recognize Russian claims to annexed Ukrainian territory
US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the US will never recognize Russia’s annexations and “mock referendums” and will continue to support Ukraine.
Sham referendums and mobilization are signs of weakness, of Russian failure. The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to so-called annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
— Ambassador Bridget A. Brink (@USAmbKyiv) September 21, 2022
The Biden administration previously warned on July 20 that Russia planned to use “the same roadmap” as it did in Crimea eight years ago.
Crimea is currently occupied by Russia after a so-called referendum that yielded an implausible 97 percent vote, over international allegations of fraud.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that US President Joe Biden will use his upcoming speech at the United Nations to rally other world leaders against the annexation. He also reiterated the US position if Russia continues with the rigged polls:
“If this happens, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to a supposedly annexed part of Ukraine. And we will never recognize this territory as anything but part of Ukraine.
We unequivocally reject the actions of Russia. And we will continue to work with our allies and partners to impose charges on Russia and provide historic support to Ukraine.”
Putin orders partial mobilization
The mock referendum announcement was followed by a public speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21 (Singapore time).
Putin has declared a “partial mobilization”, a move he has so far avoided in what he calls a “special military operation”. As many as 300,000 reservists will be called up to support his invasion.
According to the TBEN, Putin said he would “use all the resources Russia has to defend “our people” in the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine).”
If, as was widely expected, the occupied provinces ‘vote’ for Russia’s annexation, Putin could mistakenly portray his invasion of Ukraine as a defense of Russian territory.
Possible use of nuclear weapons
According to a Russian political expert quoted by the guard, this would give Putin the reason he, in his own opinion, needs to potentially use tactical nuclear weapons on Ukrainian soil.
Putin accused Western allies of using “nuclear blackmail” against Russia and said he will use “all means” to defend supposedly Russian territory.
This is not the first time Putin has alluded to the use of nuclear weapons, since he put Russia’s nuclear forces on edge as early as February 2022.
Putin also ordered more funding for arms production following the losses of large amounts of equipment captured by Ukrainian forces in their counter-offensive in Kharkov.
Russia has been slammed with strict sanctions that block the import of weapons and technology for military use.
Singapore is one of the countries that Russia has imposed sanctions on to support the principles of sovereignty and international law.
Russian parliament passes law to punish deserters
The day before Putin’s speech, Reuters reported that the State Duma (Russian Parliament) has approved tough new measures against a number of crimes committed during a state of mobilization or “combat situations”.
Actions such as desertion, damage to military property and insubordination will be punished.
For example, voluntary surrender carries a prison sentence of 10 years. Russian media also seem to avert potential public protests against Putin’s order with threats of conscription.
Russian media warn that participants in “illegal gatherings” will be subject to military service
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) September 21, 2022
Mobilization has its own problems, with Russian military losses near Kharkiv pointing to an army that may be undersupplied and low on morale.
— Ministry of Defense 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 21, 2022
Top image from Mick Ryan/Twitter and Euronews/YouTube.