Putin wants a referendum in eastern Ukraine. This is intended to legitimize the annexation of occupied territories to Russia. In doing so, he orientates himself on the model of the Russian Empire in the period before 1917, analyzes the Institute for the Study of War.
According to the pro-Russian military administration, the area around the Ukrainian city of Cherson, which is occupied by Russian troops, is preparing a referendum on accession to Russia. This is what the deputy chief of the military and civil administration of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said in a video published by the Telegram news service on Wednesday. “Yes, we are preparing for a referendum – and we will hold it.” Cherson should become “a full member” of Russia. According to earlier information, it should take place in the fall.
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The “Ukrainian Resistance Center” reported on June 28, according to which historical model the incorporation of the areas is supposed to follow. According to this, the Kremlin is based on the conditions in the period before 1917. At that time, under the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, the so-called “Governorate of Tauria” was an administrative unit of the southern Russian Empire. Today the area belongs to Ukraine – it includes the Crimean peninsula and the area north of it up to the river Dnieper. The currently occupied area around Cherson and Zaporizhia further north are located in the area of the former governorate. In the Tauria scenario, the left bank of Kherson Oblast (regions) and part of Zaporizhia Oblast would be directly annexed to Russia, probably as a single entity. This is analyzed by the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a recent report.
Since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began four months ago, there have been repeated reports that Moscow is seeking referendums on “accession” of occupied territories to the Russian Federation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently said that such a decision would not be made by the Russian leadership, but by the people in the regions under Russian control.
However, the Ukrainian government assumes that such alleged referendums based on the model of the annexed Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian separatist areas of Luhansk and Donetsk are only possible with the consent of Moscow, or rather by order.
Possibly another indication of an upcoming referendum: buses and trains are to run again between the Russian-occupied areas in southern Ukraine and the annexed Crimean peninsula from Friday. This was announced on Wednesday by the Moscow-appointed administration of the Ukrainian region of Kherson. Traffic with Crimea was cut off after Russia annexed it in 2014.
According to the self-declared Ministry of the Interior of the Kherson region, bus connections are planned between the Crimean capital Simferopol and the city of Kherson as well as the cities of Melitopol and Berdyansk in the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine, which is partially occupied by Russia. In addition, a railway line between Dschankoi and the cities of Cherson and Melitopol will be put into operation. The Russian National Guard should ensure security.