Stampede in Ukraine’s Russian-Speaking Areas To Rejoin Russia: Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Zaporozhye Begin Voting on FridayBy David Shavin
Sept. 20—In a fast-moving situation over the last 24 hours, referenda have been scheduled, beginning Friday, Sept. 23, for the populations of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Kherson Oblast, and the Zaporozhye Oblast to vote on rejoining Russia. The leader of the LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, signed a law for their referendum, and it was announced by the chair of the LPR’s People’s Council, Denis Miroshnichenko. The People’s Council had demanded of the LPR authorities that a referendum be held immediately. the official question is: “Are you in favor of the LPR joining the Russian Federation as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation?” Voting will extend over five days.
Following within hours, the Donetsk Civic Chamber called upon the DPR authorities for their referendum. The Chamber’s head, Aleksander Kofman, stated: “All of us feel and know for a long time that Donbass is Russia, we have been fighting for this for eight long years. For this, we daily suffer strikes on our homes, streets, hospitals, schools and kindergartens. We want the border of the Russian Federation to lie between us and Ukraine!” The DPR leader, Denis Pushilin, scheduled their referendum to coincide with that of the LPR.
The Kherson region, controlled by Russian forces with a military-civilian administration headed by Kirill Stremousov, responded quickly to pressure for a referendum, telling RIA Novosti that the region’s residents “want guarantees that we will become a part of the Russian Federation… and want to hold a referendum as soon as possible.” They want Russia not to leave their area. Today a petition from the Kherson Civic Chamber was presented to the region’s administrators, and the referendum was approved. The Chamber’s chairman, Vladimir Ovcharenko, said: “We are certain that the initiative would be fully supported by the people of Kherson Region, and its addition to Russia would not only restore historic justice, but also open a new path towards the revival and reconstruction of our land and the return to genuine peaceful life.”
The Zaporozhye Oblast today became the fourth to establish a referendum. Vladimir Rogov, a leader of the military-civilian administration, explained that the National Congress of Citizens of the Zaporozhye Region gathered in Melitopol and addressed the military-civilian administration: “The congress delegates demanded an immediate referendum on the reunification of the region with Russia, noting that this would forever restore peace in the Zaporozhye region and give impetus to the development of their native land, as well as stop the aggression of the Ukrainian regime against civilians and the destruction of infrastructure by militants of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Small portions of the Oblast, including Zaporiozhye city, are under Kiev’s control, and those authorities have threatened prison sentences of up to thirteen years for any Ukrainian participating in such a referendum. So, the vote there will reflect large portions of the Oblast, but not all of it.
DPR leader Pushilin made public his call to Russia’s President Putin, to respond quickly and positively: “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich — In the event of a positive decision following the referendum, which we have no doubts about, I ask you to consider the issue of the Donetsk People’s Republic joining the Russian Federation as soon as possible. The long-suffering people of Donbas deserved to be part of the great country, which they always considered their Motherland.”
One indication that Russia, which in no way needs more land to administer and develop, still would respond positively came from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today, as told to RIA Novosti: “From the very beginning of the special military operation and in the period preceding it, we have been saying that it is the people of those territories who should decide their fate. And the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their own destiny.”
In one week, the ball will likely be in Moscow’s court, and it is unlikely they would include the four regions being members of the Russian Federation without taking account of the expanded military obligations that it would involve.