Of course, the results of the votes in the Russian-controlled areas on joining Russia are already certain. The aim of the exercise is to put pressure on Kyiv and, above all, on the West. However, this makes peace negotiations less likely.
Originally, the Kremlin wanted to stage the referendums on the accession of the Russian-controlled "People's Republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk to Russia only after the two districts had been completely conquered. The last possible date was November 4 - the "Day of People's Unity", a national holiday in Russia. But the Russian army is far from capturing the entire Donetsk Oblast. And that's not all: After the successful counter-offensive in the Kharkiv district, the Ukrainians even have their first minor successes in both regions.
But now it is certain: Between September 23 and 27, sham votes on joining Russia will take place not only in the two pseudo-republics, but also in the largely occupied Ukrainian districts of Cherson and Zaporizhia. With fighting continuing in all of these areas, there had been speculation that the referendums could only take place online. However, Denis Puschilin, head of the "Donetsk People's Republic", said that there was no time to prepare for an online vote.
Of course, the results of the votes have long been known, and it can also be assumed that Russia will quickly declare the occupied territories as its own territory, in violation of international law, after the annexation referendums. In view of the counter-offensive by the Ukrainian armed forces, this is probably primarily an attempt at blackmail against Kyiv, but also against the West: Russian military doctrine provides for the use of nuclear weapons only to defend its own country.
The Russian calculus could be as follows: After an annexation of parts of Ukraine, whether in violation of international law or not, Ukraine and the West would have to fear the use of tactical nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. A declaration of martial law with a major mobilization would also be easier if Moscow can claim that Ukraine wants to conquer "Russian territory". However, the alleged Ukrainian attacks on the military bases on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula and in Russian border regions have also received no major response.
"Neither fake 'referendums' nor hybrid 'mobilizations' will change anything," said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter. "Ukraine has every right to liberate its own territory and will continue to do so no matter what Russia says." Similarly, Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak comments: "The Russians have opted for an asymmetric response to our counteroffensive. Do you think that the illegal referendum will stop the HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and the Ukrainian armed forces from destroying the occupiers on our country? You are sure you want to spend the time it takes to organize an escape on a new show? Give it a try, it'll be interesting."
Kiev political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko calls the announcement of the sham referendums a "manifestation of hysteria and panic over the defeats of Russian troops in Ukraine." In the Kremlin there is a fear of further demoralization and that their own soldiers will flee. "These referendums will start in three days. It will simply be a scam. Not only will they have no political or legal significance, they will also not be an obstacle for the armed forces of Ukraine," writes Fessenko on his Facebook page.
The political scientist believes that the statements by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, according to which Russia can use "all methods of self-defense," are pure fear-mongering - not against Ukraine, but against the West. "It's an attempt to intimidate the Europeans with the threat of further escalation. According to the Kremlin, the West should now put increased pressure on the Ukrainian leadership to start negotiations with Moscow. In the end, Russia is more likely to scare its own citizens who are at despite all Putin loyalty don't want to fight in Ukraine themselves."
According to Fessenko, the staging of the referendums could also lead to the end of all peace negotiations with Russia, even if they are no longer being held anyway. "President Zelenskyy has repeatedly emphasized that holding pseudo-referendums in occupied territory would mean that all negotiations with Russia are completely off the table. The current war will take on an uncompromising character."