February 23, 2024

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Putin’s ally says he favors the formal integration of Ukraine’s regions into Russia

Putin's ally says he favors the formal integration of Ukraine's regions into Russia

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  • Medvedev says he prefers Russia’s absorption of Ukraine’s regions
  • In preparation for this, referendums are held
  • Such a step is irreversible – Medvedev
  • Ukraine says its forces have captured a village in Luhansk
  • β€œIt is clear that the occupiers are in a state of panic,” says Zelensky.

LONDON/Kyiv (Kyiv) (Reuters) – A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he favored holding referendums in two regions of eastern Ukraine in order to formally make them part of Russia, a move that would dangerously escalate Moscow’s confrontation with Russia. the West.

The statement by Dmitry Medvedev, the former president who is currently the deputy chair of the Security Council, is a hardening of Russian rhetoric on Ukraine and is the strongest sign yet that the Kremlin is considering moving forward with a plan that Ukraine and the West have said. It would be illegal.

Putin made his comments as Putin contemplated his next steps in a nearly seven-month conflict that led to the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and after defeat on the battlefield in northeastern Ukraine.

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The leaders of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) the day before discussed uniting their efforts to hold referendums on joining Russia. Read more

On Tuesday, officials in the Russian-controlled southern Kherson region requested a referendum on joining Russia.

Medvedev suggested that merging Russia’s LPR and DPR – known together as Donbas – would be an irreversible step once completed. Hence anyone who attacks them will attack Russia itself which, by its law, is entitled to retaliate in self-defence.

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“The encroachment on Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” Medvedev said in a post on Telegram. This is the reason for the fear of these referendums in Kyiv and the West.”

He wrote that no future Russian leader would be able to constitutionally reverse the outcome of the vote.

Washington and the West had so far been careful not to provide Ukraine with weapons that could be used to bomb Russian territory, and Medvedev’s explanation of what de facto annexation would legally mean from Moscow’s point of view was a future warning to the West.

“(Referendums) will completely change the direction of Russia’s development for decades. And not only in our country. The geopolitical transformation of the world will be irreversible once the new territories are incorporated into Russia,” he wrote.

It is unclear how the referendums will take place given that Russian and Russian-backed forces only control 60% of the Donetsk region while Ukrainian forces are trying to retake Luhansk.

Pro-Russian officials said earlier that the referendums could be conducted electronically and that everything was technically ready for them moving forward.

LUHANSK THRUST

Medvedev’s comments came at a time when Ukraine said that its forces have regained control of the village of Belhorivka in the Luhansk region and are preparing to restore all the territory occupied by Russian forces completely so far.

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Unverified footage on social media showed Ukrainian forces in the village, just 10 kilometers west of the city of Lysichansk, which fell to the Russians after weeks of fierce fighting in July.

“There will be a fight for every centimeter,” Luhansk Governor Serhi Gaidai wrote in Telegram. “The enemy is preparing to defend. So we will simply not enter.”

Russia has described full control of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk province as primary targets of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, claiming that Russian speakers there are being persecuted and even bombed by Ukrainian government forces, something Kyiv has denied.

Ukrainian forces began pushing into Luhansk after driving Russian forces out of the northeastern province of Kharkiv in a lightning counterattack this month.

“It is clear that the occupiers are in a state of panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding that he was now focusing on “speed” in the liberated areas.

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

The Ukrainian leader also hinted that he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to speed up arms and aid deliveries.

In the south, where the Ukrainian counterattack was progressing more slowly, the Ukrainian armed forces said they had sunk a barge carrying Russian soldiers and equipment across a river near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.

“Attempts to build the crossing failed to withstand the fire of the Ukrainian forces and stopped. The battleship became … in addition to the submarine power of the occupiers,” the army said in a statement.

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Reuters was not able to independently verify either side’s reports on the battlefield.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Andrew Osborne; Editing by Angus McSwan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.