Russian occupation authorities remain unlikely to succeed in conducting sham referendums to annex Ukrainian territory to Russia by early September, U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Aug. 26 report.
Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate Vadym Skibitsky said on Aug. 26 that invading Russian forces had almost finished preparations to hold the sham votes in the occupied territories, but that the dates of the faked polling may vary.
However, according to ISW, the Russian occupation authorities are unlikely to be able to carry out referendums as they intend (with cooperation from local collaborators) by the purported Sept. 11 deadline, due to continued frictions within occupation administrations and ongoing partisan attacks.
The Ukrainian advisor to the head of Kherson Oblast, Serhiy Khlan, stated on Aug. 26 that the Kherson occupation administration is struggling to find people to head administrative units in charge of referendum preparations, likely due to a lack of willing locals and low levels of trust in Ukrainian collaborators.
Khlan notably stated that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin may have ordered occupation administrators to avoid importing Russian administrators to fill these roles in order to make the referendum process appear like a grassroots initiative with local support.
The National Resistance Center created by the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on June 23 that the Russian invading forces were planning to hold sham referendums on Sept. 11 in order to create “republics” in the temporarily occupied territories in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts.
The United States has stated that the Russian invaders are preparing to annex the territories they seized after Feb. 24, and they want to repeat the same plan with sham referendums as with the so-called “Luhansk/Donetsk People’s Republics” in 2014.
John Kirby, the communications coordinator at U.S. National Security Council, said on Aug. 24 that during a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Biden would warn his Ukrainian counterpart about Russia’s plans to hold sham referendums in Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts – potentially within days.
Russian troops control almost the entire territory of Kherson Oblast with the regional center, and about 60% of the territory of Zaporizhzhya Oblast. At the same time, the city of Zaporizhzhya remains under the control of Ukraine.
Luhansk Regional Governor Serhiy Hayday said on Aug. 26 that no sham referendums would take place in the occupied territories in the near future thanks to the work of Ukrainian guerrillas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that any such illegitimate votes would rule out any further Ukraine-Russia talks.