Posted by on September 23, 2022 11:43 am
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Russian referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine begin

FILE Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend the opening of the Army 2022 International Military and Technical Forum in the Patriot Park outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Putin has announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the fighting reaches nearly seven months. Putin’s address to the nation on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022 comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Russian referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine begin

Mike Brest September 23, 10:53 AMSeptember 23, 10:53 AM Video Embed

Four Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine began their referendums on Russian annexation on Friday, which have already been condemned and cast as illegitimate by Western leaders.

The “sham referendums,” as Biden administration officials have dubbed them, have begun in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and in the Russian-held parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south. If each vote goes in favor of joining the Russian Federation, which is essentially a foregone conclusion, more than 5 million people would “become Russian citizens,” according to Russian state media outlet Tass.

PUTIN’S MOBILIZATION EFFORT IS A SIGN ‘MANPOWER IS A PROBLEM,’ KIRBY SAYS

The White House will “never” recognize any territory Russia annexes from Ukraine as legitimate parts of Russia, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this week.

“Let me be clear: If this does transpire, and obviously it’s not a done deal yet, but if this does transpire, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purported annexed parts of Ukraine, and we will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine,” he said. “We reject Russia’s actions unequivocally.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is depopulating Ukraine’s territory and replacing those Ukrainian citizens with new Russian residents, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

“It is even more alarming when coupled with the filtration operation that Russian forces have been carrying out across parts of Ukraine that they control,” he explained. “Now, this is a diabolical strategy — violently uprooting thousands of Ukrainians, bus in Russians to replace them, call a vote, manipulate the results to show near unanimous support for joining the Russian Federation.”

Russia will view an attack on one of these “annexed” territories as an attack against them, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, per Tass.

“It goes without saying,” he said, noting that “immediately [after the decision to join Russia] the Constitution of Russia will come into force in relation to these territories.”

Putin is operating from a position of weakness after his military not only failed to topple the government and capture the capital in a matter of weeks but more recently lost significant territory in the northeastern part of Ukraine in a counteroffensive that proved to be more successful than any previous attempt.

In a major speech earlier this week, the Russian leader announced a partial mobilization effort that would call up 300,000 reservists to fight in the war. These forces will primarily be reservists or retired service members, and the Pentagon believes it will “take time” for them to train, prepare, and equip the new forces for battle, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.

The call-up is one example of Russia’s significant manpower dilemma. Russia amassed roughly 160,000 to 190,000 troops around Ukraine’s border ahead of its February invasion, but the Department of Defense most recently shared a Russian casualty toll of roughly 70,000 to 80,000 on Aug. 8. Therefore, up to half of the troops have already been taken out of the fight.

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The Wagner Group, a mercenary group that has fought on the Russian side in the war, has also sought to increase its numbers by 1,500 from Russian prisons and by offering convicted felons a chance to fight for their country, though “many [prisoners] are refusing” to join the war, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters earlier this week.

“It’s definitely a sign [Putin is] struggling, and we know that. He has suffered tens of thousands [of] casualties,” National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said earlier this week. “He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield. Command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems, and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him.”

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