After 4 (mostly) Russian-held Ukrainian provinces held referendums on joining the Russian Federation. Russia has claimed that it was an overwhelming victory for annexation, that it was in line with international law and that turnout was high. The head of the upper house of the Russian Duma announced that they would be annexed three days before President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday. Well, what a suspiciously timed birthday present, Pooty-Poot!
The provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson are hotly contested, having been taken by Russia during the invasion but have been under heavy attack by Ukrainian forces since then. The Russian-installed administrations formally asked to join Russia by referendum. Stories from people who have fled these areas are rife with gun-toting officials forcing people to make marks on pieces of paper. Videos have surfaced of armed officials going from house to house with ballot boxes.
The international community hasn’t bought into it with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holding calls with Canada, the UK, Germany, and Turkey which all signaled their unequivocal support. Moreover the notion of these annexations and referendums being rejected internationally, having seen Russia use this play before in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea.
The larger long term impact of all this is unsettling. These provinces represent about 15% of Ukraine’s territory and being formally annexed into Russia would mean that the Russian nuclear umbrella would be extended into those regions. The likely outcome would be that with the threat of nuclear weapons being dangled over Ukrainian forces heads will stay further attempts to retake the regions. Whether any of that is logistically possible at this point in the war is another story.
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