Steph Deschamps / September 28, 2022
Russia threatened again on Tuesday to use nuclear weapons, on the last day of the annexation referendums it is organizing in four regions of Ukraine, denounced as “shams” by Kiev and its allies. The former president and number two of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev assured that Moscow will defend these new territories that it intends to incorporate after these votes, “including with strategic nuclear weapons ».
Asked whether these statements represented the official position of the Kremlin, its spokesman Dmitry Peskov recalled the Russian military doctrine, which provides for the possibility of nuclear strikes if territories considered Russian by Moscow are attacked. However, after the referenda, “in these territories, there will be cardinal changes from the legal point of view, from the point of view of international law and because of all the respective consequences (of the measures taken) to ensure security,” said Peskov.
These nuclear threats, which are taken seriously in the West, come on the last day of annexation votes organized by Moscow in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (east) and the Russian-occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia (south). The results could be announced as early as Tuesday evening or Wednesday.
These polls, organized in a hurry in the face of the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in early September, follow the pattern of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. These five regions represent a little more than 20% of Ukraine’s surface. Vladimir Putin assured Tuesday that these votes were aimed at “saving the local populations”, Moscow justifying its invasion by accusing Kiev of Nazism and orchestrating an alleged genocide of Russian speakers.
The G7 countries have vowed to “never recognize” their results, while Washington has promised a “severe” response through additional economic sanctions. The EU considers these “referendums” as “illegal” and all those who participated in their organization will be sanctioned, said the spokesman for the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. Even China, Russia’s main partner, has voiced criticism without going so far as to denounce them.
The authorities set up by Moscow in the areas to be annexed have assured us that “provisional results” should be announced at the earliest on Tuesday evening or in the following days. The Russian Parliament will then have to vote on a text formalizing the integration of the four regions into Russia. “What do we expect from this event? Stability, economic stability and confidence in the future,” said the leader of the Lugansk separatists, Leonid Passetchnik.
At the same time, Russia continues to mobilize its reserves to recruit 300,000 fighters for its invasion of Ukraine, seeking to counter the counter-offensive by Ukrainian troops who, with the help of Western arms supplies, took back thousands of square kilometers of territory in early September.
This recruitment campaign, conducted at times in a chaotic manner, has pushed many Russians to leave the country, an exodus confirmed on Tuesday by two of the country’s neighbors, Georgia and Kazakhstan, while an influx is also observed on the borders of Mongolia and Finland.
Georgia reported 10,000 Russians crossing the border every day since the mobilization was announced. Kazakhstan reported that 98,000 Russian citizens have arrived since September 21. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has promised to protect Russians fleeing to Kazakhstan, a traditional Russian ally that has distanced itself from the invasion of Ukraine.