When a referendum on Russia’s membership took place in Crimea in 2014, several reports emerged attesting to its unreliability. For example, the AFP agency explained how in Sevastopol dozens of voters cast their ballots at the ballot box even before the referendum began. Similar votes have been launched in other parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia.

Authorities of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and pro-Russian representatives of some of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions occupied by Russian forces held a referendum on joining Russia. The Kremlin has announced that it plans to use popular voting again in eight years, and that it will be done similarly to Crimea.

“A quick referendum is the scenario for Crimea, it is a card game. Today the referendum, tomorrow it is approved as part of Russia, the day after tomorrow a strike on this territory of Russia, a full-fledged Ukraine and NATO against Russia. It will be a war that will completely free Russia, ”she wrote on the social network Twitter.

According to official results on March 16, 2014, over 96% of voters voted for the annexation of Crimea to Russia, with a turnout of 83%. At the time, Russia described the referendum as an expression of the will of the people of the peninsula.

However, these figures raised serious questions as independent observers were unable to monitor the votes. For example, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which did not have the authority to announce a referendum, had previously rejected offers from the leaders of the autonomous Crimean region to participate.

The voting process itself was also questionable. In addition to the aforementioned cases of “pre-voting”, Ukraiska Pravda also quoted a Russian journalist who said he was allowed to vote without being on the voter roll. An invasion has taken place. At the end of February 2014, Russian soldiers occupied the Crimean parliament.

“It is clear that Moscow wants to repeat the so-called Crimean scenario and declare the inviolability of its borders, as in 2014, after the pseudo-referendum. Eight years ago Crimea was like that: the Russian regime wants to enter the same river with the same narrative, ”said a leading expert at the Ukrainian Gennady Udvenka Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Stanislav Zhelkovsky explained to Ukrainian TSN.TV.

The End of the Illusion of Legitimacy

An unnamed source close to the Russian president’s office told Russian opposition news outlet Medusa that the authorities were not going to create an illusion of legitimacy this time around. will be,” he claims.

They also said the September referendum will use electronic voting, which they identified as a tool for independent observers to manipulate the results.

Resident feedback looks promising on paper once again. In mid-September, the Crimean Research Institute RIPSI and the Institute of Social Marketing conducted a telephone survey among residents of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. Results have been consistent, with support for Russia’s membership reaching record highs and pro-Russian sentiments reportedly growing in the occupied territories. However, we cannot independently verify the authenticity of this information.

signs of panic

The referendum was supposed to take place earlier, but Russia postponed it several times. After a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkov region, the Kremlin first decided to postpone the referendum indefinitely. Even last weekend, Moscow was not going to speed up the vote, according to two sources on the Meduza server near the Kremlin. However, things changed in a few days.

Ukrainian counterattacks forced Russian troops to withdraw in several places and abandon occupied territories. Analysts at the Institute for American War (ISW) have linked accelerated referendum preparations with the situation on the front lines. According to them, they are signs that the counteroffensive has caused panic among some representatives of Russia’s established autonomous government and the Kremlin.

“Russian leadership may have run out of ways to stop Ukrainian forces from advancing across the Oskir River and approaching the Luhansk region. One might believe that this could lead to the recruitment of additional troops from both the newly annexed Ukrainian territories,” the US ISW wrote.

Currently, Russia only controls parts of the regions where referendums are held. According to Medusa’s estimates, the Russian army occupied 93 percent of the territory of Kherson, 65 percent of Zaporozhye, 99 percent of Luhansk, and about 65 percent of the Donetsk region.

Road to Mobilization

According to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the referendum will open up more options for the Kremlin as to what it can do with the current “Russian territory”. It is a forgivable crime, ”Medvedev wrote on the Telegram social network.

Three sources close to the Kremlin were also interviewed by Medusa’s server. They said that according to Russian officials’ plans, the referendum would be blocked by Ukrainian forces that “won’t jeopardize their advance into Russian territory.”

Ukrainian Luhansk governor Serhiy Hadjiday envisions that the referendum will also pave the way for Russia to declare general mobilization. On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin announced only partial mobilization.

“The occupiers can call for a fraudulent referendum, somehow hastily carry it out and recognize its ‘results’. The liberation of the temporarily occupied Luhansk region would then be viewed by Russia as a direct attack on Russia.

Putin announced the first mobilization since World War II. This refers to soldiers with military experience in the reserve. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the army will convene 300,000 people.

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