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‘Referendums create an opportunity to remove tension, stop hostilities’

By Ekaterina Blinova – Samizdat – 23.09.2022

Referendums on territorial affiliation are taking place in the Donbass, Kherson, and Zaporozhye regions on September 23-27. Earlier, surveys showed that a majority of residents supported the idea of joining Russia as subjects of the Russian Federation.

Voting in referendums on joining Russia began on September 23. Earlier, on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an address to the nation to ensure security at the forthcoming plebiscites, and announced partial mobilization in the country. Putin’s speech was met with hostility by the US and its NATO allies, who branded the self-determination right of the referendum participants as a “sham” and vowed to never recognize the outcome of the votes.

“Europe fears that during the referendum even more regions of present-day Ukraine will want to distance themselves from the imposed European policy and request Russia’s help,” says Mehdi Khorsand, head of the Department of Economic Diplomacy of the Municipality of Tehran and expert on Eurasia. “At the same time, it will become a kind of threat to Europe, which for two centuries has been putting pressure on countries seeking to gain independence.”

The collective West, in particular Europeans and Americans, wants to keep an unquenchable long-term conflict in the region in order to weaken Russia, according to Khorsand. However, the ongoing referendums could create the conditions for bringing the conflict to an end, he underscores.

“Russia started its special [military] operation in Ukraine only for security reasons,” the Iranian expert notes. “If the government of Ukraine, after the tensions of 2014, had adhered to its obligations under the Minsk agreements, we would have never witnessed these hostilities, this conflict. It would have never begun in the first place.”

Donbass’ Thorny Way to Independence

After the US-backed February 2014 coup d’etat, Ukraine’s eastern regions called for autonomy resisting the rule of the military junta in Kiev. In response, Kiev started a “counter-terror operation” seeking to suppress “separatists” in the east. The Normandy Four, a format comprising Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine, worked out a roadmap, the Minsk accords, to stop the bloodshed in Donbass and provide the breakaway regions with an autonomous status. Nevertheless, Kiev’s successive governments routinely sabotaged the provisions of the Minsk agreements preventing Donbass from gaining legitimate autonomy. In addition to that, the Ukrainian nationalist leadership made NATO membership the centerpiece of its policy, ramping up military training and resorting to the weaponization of the country.

“After 2014, Russia tried to negotiate with Ukraine about its demilitarization, not joining NATO, about the independence and autonomy of the eastern regions: Lugansk and Donetsk. But the Ukrainian government after 2014 committed a real genocide of the [ethnic] Russian population in the east of Ukraine, they began to literally ‘slaughter’ the Russians there,” Khorsand says.

Moscow repeatedly called on the other guarantors of the Minsk agreements, Paris and Berlin, to pressure Kiev to observe the accords. As these attempts failed, Russia came up with draft security agreements requesting guarantees of Ukraine’s non-admission to NATO. Moscow handed the drafts to the US and the transatlantic alliance in December 2021, reminding them of Western leaders’ pledge to not expand NATO to Russia’s doorstep. The Russian leadership made it clear that it takes its national security seriously and would resort to military-technical options if the West were to ignore the drafts. Nonetheless, the US, the EU, and NATO rejected key provisions of Moscow’s proposals.

“Russia, given the seriousness of the topic of Ukraine’s accession to NATO, did not see any other solution than the start of a special [military] operation to resolve the security problem,” Khorsand says.

Referendums as Path to Get Protection From Yoke of Kiev Regime

“We expect the referenda to end up with the majority of the inhabitants of these regions voting in favor of joining Russia. I do not rule out that the hostilities will end after the referendum,” Khorsand notes.

Russia recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics on February 22; still, this decision made the regions merely a “buffer zone” between Russia and Ukraine, which did not guarantee their safety, the Iranian expert explains.

If admitted to the Russian Federation, the aforementioned regions, including Kherson and Zaporozhye, will have security guarantees as inalienable parts of Russia. The Donbass republics and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regional authorities announced on September 19 and 20 their intent to simultaneously hold referendums to join Russia. In his Wednesday speech, President Putin made it clear that Russia would protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all modern military means, adding that he wasn’t “bluffing.”

“As for the legality of the referendums, it is worth noting that the autonomy of the regions of Donbass (LPR and DPR) was fully accepted in the 2014 agreement (Minsk agreements) and mentioned in the terms of this document, respectively, this referendum, reflecting the will and desire of the people of the autonomous and sovereign republics of Donbass to join Russia is a legitimate action,” Khorsand says.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained in an interview with Newsweek that the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions used their sacred right to self-determination, which is codified in the UN Charter, when they announced their intention to join Russia.

“Of course, the US and Europe will be forced to take some other position after these legal referendums, because these referendums create an opportunity to remove tension between Russia and Ukraine, and to stop hostilities,” Khorsand concludes.

September 23, 2022 - Posted by | Civil Liberties | , ,

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