World leaders were condemning Russia for invading Ukraine at the United Nations in New York, Moscow-installed officials in seized portions of four Ukrainian regions announced intentions to organise referendums on joining Russia in the coming days.
Pro-Russian groups, in an apparently concerted operation, called for referendums to be held from September 23-27 in the Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, covering an area about the size of Hungary.
“Let the Russians do whatever they want. Not that it would have any effect anyhow “Dmytro Kuleba, foreign minister of Ukraine, stated this on Tuesday in answer to questioning from reporters at the United Nations, where world leaders were gathering for a General Assembly meeting that would be dominated by the conflict in their country.
To that he tweeted: “Ukrainian territorial liberation is lawful and will continue despite Russia’s objections.
The referendum proposal “would be comical if it weren’t so terrible,” “The French president, Emmanuel Macron, made the remarks to reporters before his country’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly opened in New York.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a “special military operation” in Ukraine to “denazify” the country by eliminating dangerous nationalists. Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes in the former Soviet republic as a result of the fighting.
The only way Putin will stop his “imperial aspirations” that threaten the destruction of Ukraine and Russia, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is if he realises he cannot win the conflict.
Scholz, in his first presentation to the General Assembly, stated, “This is why we will not accept any peace imposed by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be ready to fight against Russia’s aggression.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently addressed the General Assembly and said that the invasion of Crimea by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, undermined the legitimacy of the United Nations and called for changes to the council.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, as stated by Kishida, is “a behaviour that tramples the philosophy and ideals of the U.N. charter… It should never be permitted.”
In the eyes of some Kremlin supporters, the referendums in seized territories amounted to an ultimatum to the West to accept Russian territorial gains or risk a nuclear war with Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now the hardline deputy head of Putin’s Security Council, wrote on social media, “Encroachment into Russian land is a crime which permits you to employ all the means of self-defence.”
If the battle in seized territory is recast as an assault on Russia, the Kremlin may feel justified in calling up its two million-strong military reserves. Despite growing losses, Moscow has thus far refrained from taking such a step.
According to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the Trump administration is aware of rumours that Putin is contemplating deploying troops. Sullivan added that Washington has opposed any such referendums “unequivocally,” and that doing so would not weaken Ukraine’s capacity to resist Russian aggression.
Together, Luhansk and Donetsk make up the Donbas area that Russia partly seized in 2014. Russia recognises both of these cities as sovereign nations. In the eyes of Ukraine and the West, everywhere Russian military are stationed in Ukraine is an unlawful occupation.
After months of fierce combat and modest progress, Russia currently controls over 60% of Donetsk and almost all of Luhansk as of July.
After losing control of their key supply lines for most of the Donetsk and Luhansk front lines this month, Russian troops now pose a danger to those advances.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stated in a video message published early on Wednesday, “The situation on at the front plainly suggests the initiative is with Ukraine.”
Even if there was “some noise” from Russia, Zelenskiy said, the referendums did not sway Ukraine’s viewpoint.
The regional capital of Kherson is the only significant city Russia has seized intact during the invasion, thus Ukraine has begun a strong counteroffensive there.
Russia has taken over the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, where Europe’s biggest nuclear power facility is located. Damage from bombardment has increased concerns of a nuclear meltdown at the Ukrainian-operated reactor.
Energoatom, a Ukrainian nuclear energy company, said early on Wednesday that shelling had knocked off electricity to the plant’s No. 6 unit, necessitating the activation of two emergency generators for safety systems to keep the fuel cooling pumps running.