Putin ally backs separatist referendums in Ukraine

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Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev attends a Victory Day military parade, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Red Square in the center of Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

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  • Putin weighs options after Ukraine win
  • Russian separatists plan referendums in Ukraine
  • Medvedev: Western fears of Russia
  • Medvedev: The Kremlin would then defend Russia

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) – One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security officials on Tuesday welcomed proposals by Moscow-backed separatists to hold referendums paving the way for the annexation of swaths of the country. Ukraine in order to scare the West.

After nearly seven months of war, including a battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine, Putin is considering his next steps in a conflict that has sparked the biggest confrontation with the West since the crisis in the United States. Cuban missiles in 1962.

Russian-backed separatist leaders in the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Putin recognized as independent just before the invasion, agreed on Monday to synchronize voting plans on joining Russia. Read more

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Officials in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Kherson region called for a referendum on joining Russia on Tuesday.

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said such referendums would change the course of Russian history and give the Kremlin more options for defending Russia. what he believed would become Russian territory.

“Encroachment on Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all forces in self-defense,” Medvedev said in a message on Telegram. “That’s why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and in the West.”

“It is equally important that after the amendments to the constitution of our state, no future leader of Russia, no official will be able to reverse these decisions.”

If Putin formally annexed a vast additional chunk of Ukraine, Putin would essentially be challenging the United States and its European allies to risk a direct military confrontation with Russia, the world’s greatest nuclear power.

BIGGEST CONFLICT?

US President Joe Biden warned in March that a direct confrontation between the NATO military alliance and Russia would mean World War III. Biden and NATO leaders were careful to say they did not want NATO troops to come into direct conflict with Russian troops.

Putin and senior Russian officials and generals, however, have already framed the conflict as a broader competition with the West, which they say has sent Ukraine advanced weapons and is helping to guide Ukrainian forces with intelligence and a formation that eventually kill the Russian troops.

Putin brushed aside Ukraine’s blitzkrieg counteroffensive on Friday and framed the conflict as an attempt to prevent what he said was a Western plot to divide and destroy Russia. Read more

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after the overthrow of a pro-Russian president in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, while Donbass separatists backed by Russia were seeking to break control of Kyiv.

Ukraine says it won’t stop until all Russian soldiers are expelled from its territory. Kyiv says it will never accept Russian control over its territory and has called on the West to provide more and better weapons to fight Russian forces.

It is unclear how separatist referendums would work in times of war. Russian and Russian-backed forces control only about 60% of the Donetsk region while Ukrainian forces attempt to retake Luhansk.

Russian forces took the entire Luhansk region at the start of the war, although Ukrainian officials said on Monday they had recaptured a village in the area as part of their ongoing counteroffensive.

Swathes of territory claimed by Donetsk are still under Ukrainian control, and Ukraine still holds territory in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

“Referendums in the Donbass are essential not only for the systematic protection of the inhabitants of the LPR, the DPR and other liberated territories, but also for the restoration of historical justice,” Medvedev said.

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Reuters reporting; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Raissa Kasolowsky and Angus MacSwan

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