donbas referndum russia ukraine

Russia will respond to attacks as an assault on its territory if they vote to come under its control
Moscow will treat any potential attacks on Donbass as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions after the referendums on joining Russia as attacks on its own territory, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed. Voting in the two Donbass republics as well as the two southern Ukrainian Regions started on Friday.

Responding to a media query on whether the areas would be treated as Russian land, Peskov replied: "Definitely." He also said that the country's constitution would come into force in these territories as soon as they joined.

Russia's former president and the deputy head of the nation's Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, warned that Russia would not hesitate to use "all means available" to defend its territory. "An encroachment on Russian territory is a crime," Medvedev said earlier this week. He also stated that Donbass joining Russia would make the "geopolitical transformation [of] the world irreversible."

The US, as well as its allies in Europe and elsewhere - including Germany - have already stated they would not recognize the results of the referenda that kicked off on Friday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also branded the polls "sham referendums" on Twitter. The voting is scheduled to be held between September 23 and 27.

Washington has also recently pledged more aid to Kiev to "strengthen" Ukraine. The developments come as Russia has announced partial mobilization. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that the mobilization would involve calling to arms some 300,000 reservists, or just over 1% of Russia's full mobilization potential.

The minister explained that additional troops were required to control the 1,000km-long contact line with Ukrainian forces and Russian-held areas.

In February 2022, Russia recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces." Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.

Russians gather to show support for referendums

The first results of the five-day vote are expected by Wednesday

People have gathered across Russia in support of the referendums which will determine if the Donbass republics and the Russian-controlled territories of southern Ukraine officially join Russia.

Thousands have shown up in Moscow near the Kremlin, holding Russian flags, as well as flags of the country's regions and political parties.

Celebrities, including actors and pop stars, are taking part in the 'We Don't Abandon Our Own' event.

The organisers, the All-Russia People's Front (ONF), said the gathering "reflects the aspirations of all Russians and will help express the support of Muscovites for the residents of the liberated territories." Similar events were held in other cities.

The Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR), as well as Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine's Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, kicked off a five-day vote on Friday on joining Russia. These lands are predominantly Russian-speaking and have historical ties with Russia.
donbas referendum
© Sputnik / Alexandr Kryazhev
People hold a giant flag of Russia during a rally to support the referendum on the joining of Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR, LPR), as well as the Russian-controlled parts of the Ukrainian region of Zaporozhye and the Kherson region to Russia, in Novosibirsk, Russia.
Ukraine, the US, and EU have rejected the referendum as a "sham," vowing to ignore the results.

Comment: The new reality will have consequences which they cannot ignore.

The DPR and LPR broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. Moscow recognized them as independent states in February. Kherson Region, as well as large chunks of Zaporozhye Region, were seized by Russian troops after Moscow launched its military operation in the neighboring country.