In four of Ukraine’s seized areas, authorities supported by Russia are holding so-called referendums on joining Russia.
These “votes,” which Ukraine and the West have denounced as fraudulent and invalid, are being held over the course of five days in four front-line regions: two in the east and two in the south.
An annexation may prompt Russia to assert that Western weaponry that were sent to Ukraine are attacking its territory.
This may make the battle worse.
What is happening, and why now?
Vladimir Putin is struggling seven months after the start of his country’s invasion. Since the invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has recovered large portions of lost ground.
One of three measures used by the Kremlin to restart the conflict is a referendum on annexation.
Russia will be able to assert that its territory is being attacked by weaponry supplied to Ukraine by NATO and other Western nations if it annexes an additional 15 percent of independent Ukraine.
It can defend a front line of 1,000 kilometres by mobilizing an additional 300,000 troops (620 miles). Desertion, surrender, and absence without leave during mobilization are all crimes according to the Kremlin.
The annexation of land by the leader of Russia is nothing new. He followed up his decision to send soldiers into Crimea in 2014 with a vote that was denounced by the world community as being fraudulent and illegal.
The OSCE, an international monitoring organization, and other Western nations have also condemned this most recent incident as being unconstitutional. Russian media has already declared that a Yes vote is unquestionable.
It is taking place over the course of five days in the seized regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south and the two proxy Russian districts of Luhansk and Donetsk in the east.
What causes these votes to be a fraud?
The 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia has already been shown. Despite the Kremlin’s claims of 96.7 percent support, a leaked study from the Russian Human Rights Council indicated that only around 30 percent had really cast a ballot and that only about half favored annexation.
In spite of the fact that not a single shot was fired in Crimea, polling is still scheduled to take place there in the midst of a conflict.
All four of the affected regions are either fully or partially occupied.
Due to Russian troops’ current struggles to contain a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive, the southern city of Kherson is not secure. Just last week, several rockets impacted the main administrative building.
Even though it is difficult to conduct a secure election, officials claim that 750,000 people have registered to vote and that there are plans to include Mykolayiv’s seized territory in the annexed area.
According to Russian media, from Friday through Monday, election officials would visit homes door-to-door carrying portable voting boxes.
Officials cite security concerns as the reason why polling places will only be open on the fifth day, or September 27.
On that day, hundreds of polling places are expected to open, allowing voters to cast ballots not only in their home districts but also in areas of Russia where refugees are allowed to vote.
A referendum to annex the territory makes little sense given that Zaporizhzhia’s capital is still safely held by Ukraine.
Only 60% of eastern Donetsk is occupied by Russia, yet it remains a major flashpoint in the war.
Even though it has started to lose territory, Russia still retains control of the most of northeastern Luhansk. Russian news organizations displayed fliers being distributed with the slogan “Russia is the future.”
A large portion of the pre-war population escaped the battle. Denis Pushilin, the leader of Russia’s proxy government in Donetsk, issued an evacuation order days before the assault.
While authorities with support from Russia had been eager to organize elections for some months, the decision to hold the poll was made just three days in advance and reeks of desperation.
Independent observers won’t be present. Although officials have pledged increased security at polling places, the majority of voting will take place online.
What will alter?
Yuriy Sak, a consultant for the Ukrainian defense ministry, told the BBC that the phony referendums were doomed. We can see that the local populace is unanimously in favor of returning to Ukraine, which explains why there is such a strong guerrilla movement opposition in these areas.
Whatever the case may be, Kiev asserts that nothing will change and that its soldiers will keep working to free the regions.
Simply redesignating the conquered districts as Russian property, according to Russia expert Alexander Baunov, won’t likely put an end to the Ukrainian army’s advance, but it will signal their intentions to the people they are in charge of. And the Kremlin is hoping that the West would recoil at having its weapons shot at land that Moscow has annexed and declared to be Russian.
Alarmingly, President Putin has stated that he will “defend Russia” by whatever means necessary. And just in case there was any lingering uncertainty, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, made it plain that nuclear weapons might also be used to defend regions that had been seized.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned of a “dangerous escalation,” but he has also reiterated Washington’s view that no Russian claim to Ukrainian territory can preclude Ukraine from using its right of self-defense.
Even Turkey, which has tried to mediate the situation, has denounced the vote as fraudulent.