White House Says Russia’s “Sham Referendums” In Ukraine To Begin In Days
The White House said Wednesday that it has information that Russia is imminently planning “sham” referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories, which is expected to come in weeks or even days. The US has learned that Russian leadership has instructed officials to begin preparing to hold sham referenda, particularly in Kharkiv, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a briefing.
“We have information that Russia continues to prepare to hold these sham referendum in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the so called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics,” Kirby introduced. “We’ve also learned that the Russia leadership has instructed officials to begin preparing to hold a sham referenda, particularly in Kharkiv as well.”
“And these referenda could begin in a matter of days or weeks. In fact, we can see a Russian announcement of the first one or ones before the end of this week.” Kharkiv Oblast broadly is currently scene of heavy fighting, while Kharkiv city itself – which is Ukraine’s second largest – has this week been coming under heavy aerial bombardment.
“We expect Russia to try to manipulate the results of these referenda under the false claim of the Ukrainian people wanting to join Russia. It will be critical to call out and counter this disinformation in real time,” Kirby continued.
“Russian officials themselves know that what they’re doing will lack legitimacy, and it will not reflect the will of the people. The Ukrainian people, in any free and fair referendum, would vote overwhelmingly against joining Russia,” he added.
Washington and Ukraine had previously accused Moscow of the same tactics when it came to the 2014 Crimean status referendum. During a July briefing, Kirby had referenced Crimea is alleging that Russia’s goal is to roll out an annexation playbook for captured territories. Russian forces are currently slowly struggling to secure all of the Donbas.
Some reporting, including in The New York Times days ago, have strongly suggested a “static” of “stale-mated situation along the front lines of late. But Moscow on Wednesday offered an explanation, claiming that it had deliberately slowed its “special operation” out of a desire to protect local civilians.
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 24, 2022
Everything is being done to avoid casualties among civilians,” Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday. “Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but we are doing it deliberately.”
But countering this narrative, according to Reuters…
Ukraine’s top military intelligence official said on Wednesday that Russia’s military offensive was slowing because of moral and physical fatigue in their ranks and Moscow’s “exhausted” resource base.
Casualty counts on either side has also been a source of skepticism and controversy, with both Ukrainian and US intelligence consistently saying Russia has lost into the many tens of thousands of troops, while the Kremlin has given much lower official figures.
Wed, 08/24/2022 – 20:00