Referendums Are the Badly Needed Assurance to Pro-Russians After Debacle at Kharkov
Unlike its fanboys, the Kremlin decided to treat the Ukrainian offensive as a massive credibility loss and wake-up call
This Tuesday referendums on joining Russia were announced for Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye. Four days of voting from the 23rd through 27th are foreseen.
Referendums in wartime (under shells), for regions Russia doesn’t even fully control, with announcements made just 3 days ahead. — It’s safe to say it’s not a great look.
The most comical situation is the one in Zaporozhye. Russia doesn’t even hold Zaporozhye city that is home to 0.8 million of the region’s 1.6 million inhabitants. Russia controls under 50% of the region’s inhabitants but is organizing a “referendum” to transfer the region from Kiev to Moscow.
They’re not low-IQ in Moscow. If we can see that this isn’t a good look, then so can they.
In fact, it’s such a bad look that Moscow has spent 7 months trying to avoid it. The original intent was to first extend control over the entirety of Donetsk and Lugansk, and only then have the rubber-stamp referenda, as would have made far more sense.*
Yet they’re going ahead now, all of a sudden, and at a break-neck pace (just three days from announcement to voting). Why is that?
The reason is that it came down to either start doing things with the proper intensity, or slowly lose the war. The reason is that the Kremlin could no longer maintain the illusion (particularly to itself) that the war was on a proper track.
The war in the parameters before September 20th had exhausted itself, was on the back foot, and was probably headed for a defeat in the long-run, but was certainly headed for the destruction of Russia’s professional Ground Army — not so much on the battlefield, but through a combination of problems with burnout, retention and recruitment.
Far from the assertions of the 5D Kremlin Fan Club Boys that the shock success of Ukraine’s Kharkov offensive “did not matter”, the conclusion in the Kremlin was the precise opposite. Unlike its fanboys, the Kremlin opted to treat the Ukrainian offensive as a massive wake-up call, and reason to do what it had been desperately resisting for 7 months.
It was certainly a wake-up call for any pro-Russians in the territories Moscow had captured since February 24th. Moscow waltzed into Kharkov in February-March, started putting up “Russian World, One People” billboards, handing out citizenships, and promising it was here forever, then ran away in a matter of just 5 days. This after they had made “We do not leave ours behind” the official motto of the SMO.
After this who would ever be dumb enough to stick out his neck for Russia again?
After the Kharkov debacle the pro-Russians needed assurances that Kremlins are actually serious and not a bunch of feckless traitors to the Russkiy Mir as it was starting to look. The annexation to Russia that will follow the referenda is that badly needed assurance.
Another thing annexations will do is make conscripts deployable.
Officially Russia insists that conscripts will still not be deployed to “the area of SMO”. But just a week ago Peskov was also still insisting that there would be no mobilization either. Thus all Kremlin utterances must be treated as being of the “here today, gone tomorrow” variety.
The fact is that proclaiming the four regions Russian soil makes conscripts immediately deployable to them, without even having to proclaim a state of war.
Moreover the mobilization decree allows the state to mobilize conscripts as soon as they are discharged and become “former servicemen”, so it would be rather illogical if you could not be deployed while still in uniform but would become deployable immediately upon discharge.
(Possibly the assurances that conscripts will not be deployed are maintained for now so as not to make the fall draft any harder than it needs to be.)
Anyway, up until now the Russkiy Mir pitch Moscow has had been a very unappealing one. Not because there aren’t willing takers in principle — there are. But because Kremlin-s half-heartedness made it a two-tier system where pro-Russians outside Russia’s borders got a rotten deal.
The members of this Russkiy Mir in Kharkov, Kherson and Zaporozhye had no real security guarantees, which is why the pro-Russians of Kharkov are now refugees. Those in DLPR had security guarantees but they were also made to bear disproportionate sacrifices to repay them.
While trained conscripts already in the military from Crimea and Moscow were not sent to war, DLPR was made to carry out a general mobilization and send untrained 50-somethings off to war.
Perhaps these referendums (as sketchy as they are) can start to make Russkiy Mir a more egalitarian and just system, not one where your security and rights depend on your usefulness to the electoral prospects of the shysters of United Russia.
A video published by a member of Zaporizhzhia's military-civilian administration.
The locals are chanting for a re-fe-ren-dum! pic.twitter.com/Mho5bKAL4Z
— Львiв Tyler (@LvivTyler) September 20, 2022
KHERSON: REFERENDUM WILL INCLUDE PARTS OF NIKOLAEV REGION
Voters from the Snigirevsky and Aleksandrovsky municipal districts of the Nikolaev region will also participate in the referendum , said Saldo in his telegram channel pic.twitter.com/4KpUVh6k2p
— 🄿🄰🄾🄻🄾-🄱🅄🄲🄲🄸 (@paolobucci68) September 22, 2022
— Sergey Bobkov (@sbobkov) September 23, 2022