Stalling Russian offensives in Donbas are disrupting Russian plans to hold so-called “referendums” in occupied southern and eastern Ukraine, Russian news outlet Meduza reported on Aug. 18, citing unnamed Kremlin sources.
Moscow has laid out plans to hold sham votes on Sep. 11 – Russia’s “voting day” – expecting that Donbas would be entirely under Russian control by then, according to Meduza. As of mid-August, Russian forces control 60.25% of Donetsk Oblast – compared to 59.75% in July. Nevertheless, the report suggests the Kremlin still intends on holding the so-called referendum this fall.
The Russian’s current plan is reportedly to use the sham vote to legitimize the annexation of 60% of the oblast. Meduza’s sources indicated that overly optimistic forecasts assumed Donetsk Oblast would under total Russian control “for some time” by now, allowing for smooth preparations for the “referendum.”
While the decision has not yet been made, Meduza reported that the Kremlin is already considering postponing the vote until winter, even if it that could alarm Russian public, making them think that “something’s gone wrong,” perceiving the Russian regime as “weak.”
According to the report, Russian political operatives will have to concoct a new set of “slogans and ideological elements,” should the “referendum” get postponed once again. The final decision rests with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian officials warned in late June that Moscow intends to hold a pseudo-referendum in occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on Sep.11.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that any such illegitimate vote would rule out any further Ukraine-Russia talks.