The US think tank “Institute for the Study of War” has shown that the referendums in eastern Ukraine and a possible annexation offer Russian President Putin a “legal loophole” to openly send conscripts to war. This is also supported by the adaptation of the law to war, which Parliament passed yesterday.
The Russian leadership has already sent undertrained conscripts to Ukraine in direct violation of Russian law, prompting backlash at home. Under Russian law, conscripts generally have to undergo at least four months of training before they can be deployed abroad.
Putin also hopes to improve troop deployments by urging the Russian people to volunteer for a war to “defend” newly claimed Russian territories.
According to the ISW, Putin hopes that increased self-mobilization and a crackdown on unwilling Russian troops will allow him to take the rest of Donetsk and defend the Russian-held parts of Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
“That is a mistake. Putin has neither the time nor the means to develop an effective fighting force,” the military experts write. But Putin will wait before either escalating further or blaming his defeat on a scapegoat. His most likely scapegoat is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Russian Defense Ministry. Reports that Shoigu would accompany Putin to a speech announced for September 20 and then postponed suggest that Putin intends to make Shoigu the face of the current effort.
The Moscow-backed separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions captured in the war, are planning referendums from September 23-27. The simultaneous sham referendums without Ukraine’s consent and without any control result in a quick union with Russia.
As if in a script for Putin’s appearance, the heads of administration in Donetsk and Cherson addressed the President in the Kremlin directly on Tuesday. They asked him to support joining Russia. “This event will restore historical justice,” said Donetsk separatist leader Denis Puschilin.
It is difficult to say how many people are in the parts of Ukraine controlled by Moscow. The population there has been severely decimated since February through death, flight or deportation to Russia. According to estimates, Moscow still occupies more than a sixth of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea, despite the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
An annexation of the areas would mean for Moscow that it could present the possible recapture by Ukraine as an attack on its own territory. This would also make it easier to announce partial or general mobilization in Russia. Quickly crammed through law changes in the Russian parliament on Tuesday seem to point in this direction. However, Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Kartapalov denied that general mobilization was planned.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calmly reacted to the announcement of referendums in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Cherson and Zaporizhia regions. There’s nothing new about that. “Our position does not change with noise or any announcements,” he said in his video address on Tuesday. “We are defending Ukraine, we are liberating our country and, most importantly, we are not showing any weakness.”
On Wednesday, Zelenskyi will have the opportunity to clarify Ukraine’s position in the UN General Assembly. He is connected there by video, Putin is represented in New York by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The escalation sought by Moscow in the war of aggression that has been going on for almost seven months is overshadowing the UN general debate, at which US President Joe Biden is also scheduled to speak.
Zelenskyj thanked the unanimous condemnation of the Russian plans by many countries and organizations. “We have the full support of our partners,” he said in Kyiv. Among others, Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have criticized the Moscow initiative. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the voting illegal and a violation of international law.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the announced votes as a mockery of Ukraine and the United Nations. “With all caution, with all the responsibility that we have, we must not let ourselves be fooled by this renewed provocation, but we must now continue to support Ukraine with full responsibility for peace in Europe,” said the Greens politician the ARD “daily topics”. Weapons deliveries should continue “because it saves lives”.
That will be important on Wednesday
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will not only address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. He also gives a speech to representatives of the US defense industry – also via video link. The United States is Ukraine’s most important arms supplier. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is also scheduled to speak at the NDIA meeting.
The September 19 Ukraine update.
They drive up in an SUV, pay their fee with 100-euro bills and complain about fruit with bruises: Ukrainian refugees are causing displeasure at the food bank in Weimar. Volunteers are fed up with being bullied.
According to military expert Mick Ryan, the recapture of Ukraine can also be attributed to clever military deployment planning. Russia, on the other hand, is currently proving “historically” poor operational skills. Against this background, the Ukrainian armed forces seem to sense a possible collapse of the Russian positions in the east.
For more than six months, the village of Shevchenkove in eastern Ukraine was occupied by Russia. It was released last week. With the Russian soldiers, the propaganda newspapers and the portraits of Putin have also disappeared from the village of 7,000 inhabitants. Now people are returning to normal life.