The US says Russia plans to annex more Ukrainian territory, using a similar “playbook” for its annexation of Crime.
Regarding US intelligence, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Russia was already laying the groundwork for a merger. He said Ukraine’s active regions could hold a “sham” referendum on joining Russia as soon as September.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after a referendum widely viewed as illegitimate.
Mr Kirby said the results of the votes would be used by Russia “to try to claim possession of sovereign Ukrainian territory”. Russia has already established its regional and local authorities in the parts of Ukraine.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a hastily organized referendum – which was seen as illegal by the international community, in which voters opted to join Russia.
Many Kyiv supporters boycotted the vote, and the campaign was neither free nor fair. Similar polls in other parts of Ukraine will almost certainly see a similar situation, with any opposition to Russia joining the mainland.
Mr Kirby said he was “exposing” Russian plans “so the world knows any alleged merger is premeditated, illegal and illegitimate” and promised a quick response from the US and its allies.
He said the areas targeted for occupation include Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainians are under no illusions regarding Russia’s exterminatory intentions and understand that their country will cease to exist if they are not victorious. However, many voices in the international arena have yet to grasp the sheer scale of Russia’s imperial ambitions fully and seem to believe some kind of negotiated settlement remains possible. This is dangerous wishful thinking. There can be no compromise with the Kremlin if Putin seeks to wipe Ukraine off the map.
Ukraine’s remarkable battlefield success during the first two months of the war has obscured the bigger picture of Russia’s imperial agenda and risks creating a false sense of security. Indeed, many now appear to take an eventual Ukrainian victory for granted, while French President Emmanuel Macron has already begun warning against the dangers of “humiliating” Russia. Such thinking will leave the problem of unreconstructed Russian imperialism unaddressed and will all but guarantee further wars of aggression.
Instead, it is vital to continue expanding international support for Ukraine until Russia is decisively defeated and forced to confront its crimes. Russia’s present military predicament may make it more challenging to implement Putin’s plans for annexing southern Ukraine. However, Moscow will view any setbacks as temporary. Russia will continue to pose an international security threat until the imperial thinking that made the current war possible is consigned to the ash heap of history.