Despite the active military operations in the south and east of Ukraine and the lack of active population support for the occupiers, the Russians continue preparations for the so-called referendum. We explain why Kremlin needs it and why the enemy is in such a hurry.
Russia was not the first to invent such a method of legalizing territorial conquests as a referendum. As they say, they learned from the best. The first known such “referendum” was the Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, when Hitler’s troops held a plebiscite under the muzzle of tanks regarding the country’s inclusion in the Reich. Annexation, according to the Nazis, was supported by 99% of the population.
But here, the Germans acted more “subtly”, because they annexed and included the whole of Austria, within its internationally recognized borders, as part of the Reich. At the same time, “Russia”, which currently copies the Reich in almost everything: from propaganda to denying the existence of individual nations, has already carried out several occupational “expressions of will”.
In 2014, the Russians simulated a show of will in the occupied Crimea (although they lacked the courage to admit that it was them, and not some kind of self-defense). They appealed to entrenched narratives – Bandera is evil, all Ukrainians are followers of Bandera, so Ukraine is evil. Return to your home port. According to Moscow, 96.6% of the population supported the decision to include the peninsula in the Russian Federation.
Such simple logic was included in the general narrative regarding the sanctity of the Russian people in the fight against the fascists. Even historians, analysts, and political scientists could not overcome these arguments, because they are very suitable for people who did not want to understand. As they say, the bolder the lie, the easier it is to believe.
Russia also tried to play the comparison with Kosovo, but these arguments were completely destroyed by international lawyers of many states and organizations. After all, although the Russians appealed to the UN-guaranteed right of nations to determine their own future, as in the case of the Kosovars. However, in Crimea, the main ethnic group – the Crimean Tatars – did not support the referendum, and the ethnic Russians have their own independent state – the Russian Federation, and therefore cannot vote in a foreign country for the secession of the territory, contrary to the constitution of Ukraine.
But Russians are used to “playing referendums”. Long before the occupation of the peninsula, the Kremlin held a referendum in Transnistria, a region of Moldova occupied by Moscow. Then the Russian agents provoked a conflict between ethnic Russians and Moldovans, after which the Russians introduced their “peacekeepers” who actually occupied this region.
A referendum was held in this quasi-state in 2006, and allegedly 97.1% of the region’s residents voted for the region’s accession to the Russian Federation. But Moscow is not yet in a hurry to annex the region de jure, but it constantly puts pressure on Moldova with this “expression of will”.
In 1999, the Kremlin held a “referendum” on the occupied part of Georgia – Abkhazia, where the Kremlin controls the region as if it were “peacekeepers”. Of course, the majority of Abkhazians, namely the magical 97.7%, allegedly voted for independence. This will be one of the reasons for the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.
Well, already in 2014, Moscow played out the same scenario regarding the creation of quasi-states in the eastern regions of Ukraine, when it held an illegitimate “referendum” on the creation of the DPR and LPR. In the Donetsk region, the separatists drew “only” 89% of support, and in Luhansk 96%.
This was then used to pretext a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 when Moscow recognized the sovereignty of its puppet republics and decided to recognize them within the borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Even though no “referendum” was held in most of these territories.
Please note that in all cases, Moscow draws fantastically high numbers of local support for the occupation, following the Nazi method. In this way, it seems to admit that there are opponents of the occupation, but they are marginal and their number is not important to consider their rights.
One of the tasks of such referendums is to get an “occupation with a human face”, they say, the locals fully support the actions of the occupiers. They do not bear any legal dividends according to international law.
None of the referendums of the Russians is recognized by the world. That is, the legalization of the occupation does not occur. Any encroachments on the captured territory remain legitimate only in the sick imagination of the occupier. So, why do the Russians plan to continue holding “referendums” in the south and the territories of Donbas captured in 2022?
The answer is simple – propaganda. All these manifestations of will are aimed at creating a propaganda picture designed for both internal and external viewers. The Kremlin wants to show the world that there is no forced occupation and the residents of the occupied territories are not against annexation, so why should the West interfere in this “conflict”?
At the same time, the domestic audience will not ask themselves why compatriots are dying in Ukraine, while the economy of the Russian Federation is going down. Because the answer to these questions is the “higher good”: the Russian Federation “liberates” Russians who lived in captivity of the “Kyiv regime”. So, Moscow plans to give the war a new wave of support and raise the morale of recruits.
As already written above, the Russians are only interested in the image of the show of will, and for this, it is enough to open several polling stations, bring extras and draw a “high turnout”. Next, announce the necessary numbers about unprecedented support and that’s it.
However, the situation in the south is so critical for Moscow that the Russians cannot count on a sufficient turnout even to simulate the legitimacy of the referendum, let alone get high support from the locals.
Therefore, according to preliminary data, they plan to make a declaration of will at the place of residence of the voters. Which already violates the secrecy of the vote, and therefore makes the “referendum” even more absurd.
At the same time, the unstable situation in the south forces the Russians to hurry. Because in the case of a successful counteroffensive, Russian propaganda can play on the domestic market with the story of Ukraine’s attack on “Russian territory,” which will help keep “Russians on their toes.”
Based on the above, we call on TOT residents to ignore passporting, the “referendum” and evacuate. If you stayed on the territory of the TOT, then ignore the voting, or if you were forced to take part, then damage the ballots.
If the Russians have already started playing this farce, then we need to help them bring the matter to the point of absurdity. Empty polling stations, unopened doors, destroyed ballots, “mined” polling stations – all this destroys Moscow’s propaganda myth about voluntary joining.
Remember, the only legal referendum in the south, Crimea and eastern regions has already taken place – in 1991. Then the inhabitants of all these territories voted for the independence of Ukraine. Voting took place under international supervision and without Russian tanks, and the results of the show of will were recognized by the whole world. Including Moscow.