NATO denounces Donbass referendums — Analysis
The bloc’s chief Jens Stoltenberg claims “sham” vote has no legitimacy and calls for more support for Ukraine
Reacting to the announcement that the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR) will hold a ballot to join Russia later this week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called them illegitimate and demanded more support for Ukraine from the “international community.”
“Sham referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg saidOn Twitter, you can call it “a further escalation in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war.”
“The international community must condemn this blatant violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg added.
The Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR) will hold a vote for unification with Russia on September 23-27, their leaders said on Tuesday morning. Starting Friday, Russian-held territory in Zaporozhye (nearby) and Kherson will vote.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan echoed Stoltenberg’s condemnation at the White House press briefing on Tuesday, calling the referendums “an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“We will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine,” Sullivan added.
After the US-backed coup in February 2014, several regions in Ukraine rejected the legitimacy of Kiev’s government. Crimea held a referendum to rejoin Russia in March that year – which NATO has likewise refused to recognize – while Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. These protocols were originally signed by France and Germany through intermediaries. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
The Kremlin recognised the Donbass republics in February 2022 as independent states. It demanded Ukraine declare itself neutral and not join any Western military bloc. Kiev maintains that Russia’s offensive was not provoked.