Russia will respond to attacks as an assault on its territory if they vote to come under its control.
Moscow will treat any potential attacks on Donbass as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions after the referendums on joining Russia as attacks on its own territory, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed. Voting in the two Donbass republics as well as the two southern Ukrainian Regions started on Friday.
Responding to a media query on whether the areas would be treated as Russian land, Peskov replied: “Definitely.” He also said that the country’s constitution would come into force in these territories as soon as they joined.
Russia’s former president and the deputy head of the nation’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, warned that Russia would not hesitate to use “all means available” to defend its territory. “An encroachment on Russian territory is a crime,” Medvedev said earlier this week. He also stated that Donbass joining Russia would make the “geopolitical transformation [of] the world irreversible.”
The US, as well as its allies in Europe and elsewhere – including Germany – have already stated they would not recognize the results of the referenda that kicked off on Friday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also branded the polls “sham referendums” on Twitter. The voting is scheduled to be held between September 23 and 27.
Washington has also recently pledged more aid to Kiev to “strengthen” Ukraine. The developments come as Russia has announced partial mobilization. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that the mobilization would involve calling to arms some 300,000 reservists, or just over 1% of Russia’s full mobilization potential.
The minister explained that additional troops were required to control the 1,000km-long contact line with Ukrainian forces and Russian-held areas.
In February 2022, Russia recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.” Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.