Ukrainians in territories occupied by Russian troops will today wake up to a referendum and will be asked whether they want to become part of Russia — a vote international experts think would go Moscow’s way.
The Kremlin has orchestrated referendums in the occupied areas of Ukraine that are set to start today.
The referendum which is largely seen to turn in favour of Russia, means that Russia could absorb those lands as early as next week.
“For Putin, the annexation would legitimize the right to resort to nuclear threats to protect the Russian territory,” says Tatiana Stanovaya, an independent political expert who follows the Kremlin’s decisionmaking.
According to Moscow political pundits the referendums will bring the desired results — anywhere between 75% and 99% in favour.
Meanwhile, President Putin on Wednesday declared that he would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory. This means that if the referendum turns in favour of Russia, the Kremlin will have the right to use nuclear weapons on the frontline inside occupied Ukraine.
In a televised address to the nation, Putin said Moscow’s nuclear arsenal is more modern than NATO’s and declared his readiness to use them.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin added somberly in an apparent reference to those in the West who described his earlier nuclear threats as a blustery attempt to weaken the international support for Ukraine.
Russian military doctrine envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to a nuclear attack or aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”