Four regions of Ukraine are all set to hold referendums on Friday on joining Russia amid the ongoing crisis. The provinces – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – are currently under Russian control and in the past few months, Moscow has set up local governments to handle daily administration.
According to AFP, the four provinces together account for around 15 per cent of Ukraine’s complete territory and right now, it is almost a certainty that the results will favour annexation.
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“From the very start of the operation … we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their fate,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week when asked about the referendums.
A similar process was followed by Russia during its annexation of Crimea in 2014 when it claimed that the results were signs of “popular support” – a move that was not recognised by the international community.
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The Ukrainian authorities have already made it clear that they will not accept or recognise the results of the referendums and this can lead to an escalation in the conflict. A majority of western countries have also condemned Russia for this move at the United Nations General Assembly.
While the plan for the referendums was in place for quite some time, they were accelerated by Ukraine winning back several territories in the past few weeks. The Russian forces lost ground in a number of areas as the resistance forces went on to claim victory in both Kharkiv and Luhansk.