Vladimir Putin expected to support votes in occupied Ukrainian regions to join Russia

Vladimir Putin is expected to deliver a speech on Tuesday evening, Moscow time, where he could support public votes in occupied areas of Ukraine, which would lead to their declaration of Russian territory.

If so, it would be a major escalation of what the Russian president calls “the special military operation.” The Kremlin could then decide that any attack on occupied Ukraine was an attack on Russia itself.

Putin was also expected to announce some form of conscription to bolster Russian forces.

The last time he gave a public televised address to the nation was on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine.

World leaders, including those close to Putin, condemned the move before he even mentioned it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who previously said Putin wanted to end the war “as soon as possible”, added later Tuesday that he would not recognize the results of any referendum.

The moves come as Ukraine has taken over large swaths of land in the east of the country, which reportedly panicked Moscow.

Referendum threat

Earlier in the day, Russian occupation authorities in the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as well as the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia said referendums should be held immediately on areas that are part of Russia.

They could arrive as early as this weekend between September 23 and 27.

However, none of the regions is completely under Moscow’s control. While most of Luhansk is, Ukraine has raised its flag over some villages in this region.

About half of the Donetsk region, including areas just outside the main city of Donetsk, is in Ukrainian hands,

Ukraine, Ukraine has reclaimed land in Kherson while the city of Zaporizhzhia and about half of the region of the same name remain with Kyiv.

In total, with Crimea, Russia would control 20% of Ukrainian territory.

Even if the referenda went fairly – and there is no indication that they would – many former residents have fled those areas that have been on the front line. The vote would therefore capture only part of the opinion in the territories.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s parliament passed a bill increasing penalties for desertion and insubordination in the event of conscription.

The White House said any decision to hold votes in occupied Ukraine would be “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Meanwhile, Kyiv said the slim chance of negotiating with Moscow would disappear if the referendums were held.

Originally published as Vladimir Putin expected to support votes in occupied Ukrainian regions to join Russia