Putin’s ally says he favors formal inclusion of Ukraine in Russia

Sign up now for free unlimited access to Reuters.com

  • Medvedev says it will help Russia absorb Ukraine
  • Its predecessor was the holding of a referendum
  • Such a step would be irreversible – Medvedev
  • Ukraine says its troops occupied Luhansk village
  • “The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Zelensky said

LONDON/Kyiv, Sept 20 (Reuters) – One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key allies said on Tuesday he was in favor of holding referendums on two regions in eastern Ukraine to formally make them part of Russia , a move that would seriously escalate Moscow’s confrontation with Ukraine. The west.

The statement by current Security Council Vice-President and former President Dmitry Medvedev marked Russia’s tough rhetoric on Ukraine, the strongest sign yet that the Kremlin is considering moving forward with plans that Ukraine and the West have said will is illegal.

His comments came as Putin was considering his next move in the nearly seven-month conflict that has sparked the biggest confrontation with the West since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and a battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine.

Sign up now for free unlimited access to Reuters.com

The leaders of the Russia-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) a day ago discussed a joint effort to hold a referendum on joining Russia.read more

Officials in the Russian-controlled southern region of Kherson also called for a referendum on joining Russia on Tuesday.

Medvedev said that once completed, the incorporation of LPR and DPR into Russia, collectively known as the Donbass, would be an irreversible step. Anyone who attacks them will attack Russia itself, which under its own laws has the right to react in self-defense.

“Violating Russian territory is a crime and it allows you to use all your self-defense,” Medvedev said in a Telegram post. “That’s why Kyiv and the West are so afraid of these referendums.”

He wrote that future Russian leaders would not be able to constitutionally overturn the vote.

Washington and the West have so far been careful not to provide Ukraine with weapons that could be used to shell Russian territory, and Medvedev’s interpretation of what de facto annexation would mean legally from Moscow’s perspective appears to be an indication of the future of the West warn.

“They (the referendum) will completely change the direction of Russia for decades. Not just our country. Once new territories are incorporated into Russia, the geopolitical shift in the world will be irreversible,” he wrote.

Given that Russia and Russian-backed forces control only about 60 percent of the Donetsk region and Ukrainian forces are trying to retake Luhansk, it is unclear how the referendum will be held.

Pro-Russian officials have previously said the referendum could be held electronically and that everything was technically ready to go ahead.

Luhansk thrust

Medvedev’s remarks come as Ukraine says its troops have recaptured the village of Bilokhorivka in the Luhansk region and are preparing to retake all parts of the province, which has so far been completely occupied by Russian troops.

Unverified footage on social media showed Ukrainian troops in the village, just 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of the city of Lysichansk, which fell into Russian hands after weeks of heavy fighting in July.

“Every centimeter will be fought,” Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk, wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing their defenses. So we’re not going to simply march.”

Russia has listed full control of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk province as the main target of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, claiming that Russian speakers there are persecuted and even shelled by Ukrainian government forces, but Kyiv denies it up to this point.

Ukrainian forces have begun advancing towards Luhansk after a lightning-quick counteroffensive drove Russian troops out of northeastern Kharkiv province this month.

“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late Monday, adding that he was now focused on the “speed” of the liberated areas.

“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed at which normal life is restored,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian leader also hinted that he would deliver a video address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, calling on countries to speed up the delivery of arms and aid.

In the south, another Ukrainian counteroffensive has been slow, with Ukrainian armed forces saying they sank a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment near Novakakhovka in the Kherson region.

“The attempt to build the crossing failed to withstand Ukrainian army fire and was stopped,” the military said in a statement. “The barges … became a complement to the occupier’s submarine force.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports from either side.

Sign up now for free unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting at Reuters Bureau; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus McSwan

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link