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Putin Alli says he wants the Ukrainian regions formally incorporated into RussiaAchi News

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A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he wants to hold a general referendum on two eastern Ukrainian regions to become part of Russia, a move that would seriously escalate Moscow’s conflict with the West.

The statement by former President Dmitry Medvedev, who is now vice president of the Security Council, signals a hardening of Russian rhetoric on Ukraine and is a strong sign that the Kremlin is considering moving forward with a plan that Ukraine and the West have said. would be illegal.

He made his comments as Putin ponders his next steps in a nearly seven-month conflict that has sparked the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine.

The leaders of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) coordinated and discussed efforts to hold referendums on joining Russia a day earlier.

Officials in the Russian-controlled southern Kherson region also called for a referendum on joining Russia on Tuesday.

Medvedev suggested that Russia’s annexation of the LPR and DPR – collectively known as the Donbass – would be an irreversible step once completed. And then anyone who attacks them attacks Russia, which, under its own law, has the right to respond in self-defense.

“Trespassing into Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all the forces of self-defense,” Medvedev said in a post on Telegram. “This is why these polls are so feared in Kyiv and the West.”

A future Russian leader cannot constitutionally change the outcome of the vote, he wrote.

Washington and the West have so far been careful not to provide Ukraine with weapons that could be used to shell Russian territory, and Medvedev’s explanation of what it legally means by de facto annexation in Moscow’s eyes seemed like a future warning to the West.

“They (referendums) will completely change the vector of development of Russia for decades, not only our country. Once new territories are annexed to Russia, the geopolitical change of the world will be irreversible,” he wrote.

While Ukrainian forces try to retake Luhansk, it is unclear how the referendum will be conducted as Russian and Russian-backed forces control only about 60% of the Donetsk region.

Pro-Russian officials have previously said the referendums could be held electronically and were technically ready to go ahead.

Luhansk thrust

Medvedev’s comments came as Ukraine’s troops recaptured the village of Bilohoryvka in the Luhansk region and were preparing to retake the entire province, which had until now been fully occupied by Russian forces.

Unverified footage on social media showed Ukrainian forces in the village, about 10 km (6 miles) west of the town of Lysizansk, which fell to the Russians in July after weeks of fighting.

“There will be a fight for every centimeter,” Luhansk Governor Serhii Keidai wrote in a telegram. “The enemy prepares their defenses. So we don’t just march in.

Kiev has denied taking full control of Luhansk and the neighboring province of Donetsk as the primary targets of what Russia has called a “special military operation” in Ukraine, where Russian-speakers are being harassed and shelled by Ukrainian government forces.

Ukrainian troops began entering Luhansk after driving Russian forces out of northeastern Kharkiv province in a lightning counteroffensive this month.

“The occupiers are clearly panicking,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late Monday, adding that he was focusing “on speed” in the now-liberated areas.

“The speed at which our forces are moving. Speed ​​in restoring normal life,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian leader also indicated he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to speed up arms and aid deliveries.

In the south, another Ukrainian counteroffensive is slowly progressing, with Ukraine’s armed forces claiming to have sunk a boat carrying Russian troops and equipment across a river near Nova Khakovka in the Kherson region.

“Efforts to make the crossing were halted due to the fire of Ukrainian forces. The boat … became an addition to the submarine force of the invaders,” the military said in a statement.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports from either side.

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