The results of the staged referendums in the Russian-controlled Kherson region to the south and the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia were as anticipated. The annexation of these Ukrainian territories will undoubtedly be formalised when the Russian parliament, which meets on October 4, ratifies the annexation accords.
In a sense, history is repeating itself after Russia seized control of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. The fact that the annexation this time around coincides with a brutal military battle between Russia and Ukraine represents a qualitative change, nevertheless. The consequences of which, including risks to food security, energy security, disruptions in supply chains, a sharp increase in inflation, etc., are felt well beyond Russia’s borders, notably in Europe and a number of underdeveloped and emerging nations.
The reaction to the referendums in Ukraine and Russia’s predicted annexation of Ukrainian territory follow predictable patterns. The referendum has received widespread criticism for being fraudulent and illegal. According to reports, the US is getting ready to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council urging members not to recognise any change to Ukraine’s sovereignty and for Russia to evacuate its soldiers from the lands it has occupied. There is little doubt that Russia will veto the US Resolution.
Effect of annexation on the ongoing war
Notably, none of the four regions where referendums were held is completely under Russian authority. Recently, the offensively oriented Ukrainian forces achieved significant progress in Kharkiv region, which had previously been ruled by Russia. The president of Ukraine has frequently vowed to retake the areas that Russia has annexed throughout the war, which is now in its seventh month.
Through a video message from Kyiv, Ukrainian President Zelensky warned the UN Security Council that Moscow’s efforts to annex Ukrainian land would result in ‘nothing to speak about with this president of Russia (Vladimir Putin)’. The declaration that the United States intends to unveil a $1.1 billion military package for Ukraine is an indication that any substantive negotiation in the near future is impossible. The foreign minister of Russia has issued a warning that any assault on these recently seized regions will be viewed as an assault on his country. This is being taken as an implicit threat from Russia that it won’t hesitate to deploy its nuclear arsenals if necessary.
Russia’s goal of gaining a foothold in eastern Ukraine and impeding Ukraine’s chances of joining NATO has been partially accomplished. The Americans, meanwhile, are seeking to undermine and isolate Russia as much as they can while extending the war. The dread of a nuclear war and its catastrophic effects on the rest of the globe will continue to grip the global society. This anxiety might arise accidentally or on purpose.
Russian is the primary language of the majority of the 3.6 million residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, who migrated there as Russian labourers after World War II, during the Soviet era. One-fifth of the population in the area has received one of the more than 720,000 Russian passports that Moscow has granted. In the Donbas area, pro-Russian rebels had previously proclaimed independence but have now decided to vote to join the Russian Federation. Primarily, the people in the area are exercising their right to self-determination, which is, in Ukraine’s view, a breach of that country’s territorial integrity.
However, it is widely acknowledged that the actual circumstances are different and that Russia wrote the entire production. According to Russia’s explanation, the referendums represented the people’s will in these territories, making Russia’s annexation of them legal. It’s unfortunate that the international community and the UN have mostly remained silent while the great powers have militarily interfered in other nations on several times to further their own vested interests under various pretexts.