US: Russia intends to hold referendums in May to annex Donbas
Washington, May 2 (EFE).- The United States warned Monday that Russia is intending to orchestrate sham referendums in mid-May to annex the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, together known as the Donbas, similar to the one held in the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the Kremlin invaded and occupied that portion of the neighboring country.
“Such sham referenda, fabricated votes will not be considered legitimate, nor will any attempts to annex additional Ukrainian territory,” the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, said at a press conference, urging the international community to act “urgently” to counter this plan and/or impose costs on Russia for carrying it out.
Carpenter said that Moscow has modified its objectives for its invasion of Ukraine, which initially were to topple the government in Kyiv and install a pro-Russian puppet regime but now are focusing on militarily dominating the eastern part of the country, as well as a corridor along the Sea of Azov and Black Sea coast.
In that regard, Carpenter said that the US has received “highly credible” reports indicating “that the Kremlin may try to hold a sham referendum to try to add a veneer of democratic electoral legitimacy” to the annexation, adding that it may stage a similar vote in the Kherson region with an eye toward annexing it, too.
The envoy to the OSCE warned that Moscow is “abducting” and replacing the mayors and other officials in towns and communities in the region, adding that the US has “received reports of enforced disappearances of a range of folks to include school directors, journalists, local activists, [and] municipal officials.”
The purpose of removing, incarcerating and perhaps even “disappearing” these people is to insert Kremlin “puppets and proxies” into their positions.
He said that the US government was making public this warning to expose Russia’s pending actions, and he demanded that Western governments diplomatically isolate Moscow.
In addition, Carpenter said that the OSCE is meticulously studying the situation in Transnistria, a separatist and Russian-speaking region of Moldova, where last week there were several explosions which – according to Ukraine – could have been staged by Russia as a pretext for intervening militarily in that area.
Moldova borders Ukraine on the west and there are about 1,500 Russian troops already stationed there.
Putin ordered the Russian military to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24 after recognizing the independence of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.