Russia likely to be in ‘advanced planning’ stage for referendum in Donetsk

Russia is likely to be at the “advanced planning” stage for a referendum to be held in the pro-Russian “Donetsk People’s Republic” in Ukraine on whether to become a part of the Russia.

It’s been widely reported and presumed by Western officials and experts that Russia would seek to try to bring the breakaway region (and its neighboring self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” in Luhansk, also in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine) into the Russian Federation at some point.

Russia has used the “defense” of these separatist regions, which it has supported since 2014 and made various attempts to “Russify,” such as the handing out of Russian passports, as an excuse for invading Ukraine. Moscow has said that the “liberation” of these territories in the Donbas is its main aim of the war and its forces occupy much of Donetsk and are trying to push into Luhansk.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said Monday that “it is likely that Russia is in the advanced planning stages to hold a referendum, though it is unclear if the final decision to go ahead with a vote has yet been taken.”

It noted that on Aug.11, Russian media reported that Denis Pushilin, head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), had said that the date of a referendum on the DPR joining Russia would be announced after the DPR’s “complete liberation.”

“Previously, in June 2022, investigative journalists published evidence of a DPR planning strategy for running such a referendum and for ensuring that at least 70% of votes were in favour of joining Russia,” the U.K.’s ministry said, adding that “the Kremlin will likely see the military’s failure to occupy the entirety of Donetsk Oblast thus far as a setback for its maximalist objectives in Ukraine.”

Suggestions of referenda being planned in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, or in the pro-Russian separatist regions, are widely seen as sham attempts to solidify Russia’s grip on Ukrainian territory, and have been criticized by Ukraine’s authorities and the international community.

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