Russian-Backed Authorities in Ukraine Announce Referendums to Join Russia

Referendums will be held in the Donbas, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson from September 23 to 27

Authorities in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine announced on Tuesday that they will be holding referendums on joining Russia, a sign that Moscow may be escalating its military operations in Ukraine.

Referendums will be held in the self-declared Donestk and Luhansk Republics in the Donbas region, and in the oblasts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russia currently controls about 95% of Kherson and a significant portion of Zaporizhzhia.

Putin was set to deliver a major speech on Tuesday where he was expected to discuss the referendums, but it was postponed. Reacting to the planned referendums, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “Peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate.”

The referendums would cover all Russian-controlled areas highlighted in red (

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba slammed the referendum plans, saying that they wouldn’t “change anything” and that Ukraine would continue to attempt to recapture the territories. “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he said.

The announcements come after Ukraine recaptured a significant portion of territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been under pressure to escalate what he has called a “special military operation” into a full-scale war.

In another sign Russia is preparing for an escalation, Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a bill on Tuesday that would introduce the term “mobilization” into Russia’s criminal code. Putin has so far resisted calls for a mobilization, which would involve a nationwide military draft, but he did warn last week that Russia might step up its operations in Ukraine.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.