Two Russia-backed regions announce referendum plans
Votes will be held on whether to become part of Russia
Votes will be held from Sept. 23-27
Outcome of votes would be irreversible - Medvedev
Ukraine and the West regard votes as sham and illegal
LONDON/KYIV, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Two Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia later this week and an ally of President Vladimir Putin said the votes would alter the geopolitical landscape in Moscow's favour forever.
The move, which seriously escalates Moscow's standoff with the West, comes after Russia suffered a battlefield reversal in northeast Ukraine and as Putin ponders his next steps in a nearly seven-month-old conflict that has caused the most serious East-West rift since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the neighbouring Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) said the planned referendums would be held from Sept. 23-27.
In a post on social media addressed to Putin, DPR head Denis Pushilin wrote: "I ask you, as soon as possible, in the event of a positive decision in the referendum - which we have no doubt about - to consider the DPR becoming a part of Russia."
Earlier on Tuesday, Russian-installed officials in the southern Kherson region, where Moscow's forces control around 95% of the territory, said they had also decided to hold a referendum. Pro-Russian authorities in part of Ukraine's Zaporizhia region were expected to follow suit. read more
Ukraine and the United States have said such referendums would be an illegal sham and have made clear that they and many other countries would not recognise the results.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former president who is currently deputy chairman of the Security Council, suggested before the announcements that the outcome of such votes would be irreversible and give Moscow - which has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world - carte blanche to defend what it would regard as legally its own territory.
"Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence," Medvedev said in a post on Telegram. "This is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and the West."
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A Ukrainian national flag flies on an entrance to the town of Kupiansk, recently liberated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 19, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS