From occupation to annexation: How to stop Russia’s pseudoreferendum?

After the invasion of Crimea back in 2014, the Russian Federation held what it called a “referendum” on integrating the peninsula into Russia. Conducted at gunpoint of the Russian military and accompanied by a large-scale anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign, this event resembled nothing of an expression of free will, but despite the protests from Ukraine and the West, the Kremlin proceeded with the annexation of a sovereign part of Ukraine.

Now, after the further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and occupation of several more regions, parts of the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.face the same threat of a pseudo-referendum on joining Russia. While the aggressor is preparing to the fake vote with terrorizing the locals and deportations of Ukrainians to Russia, the Armed Forces of Ukraine hurry to liberate the occupied territories and ruin Russian plans with assistance from the local residents.

There are risks that, despite the illegitimacy of the so-called “referendums”, if it is held, the further de-occupation of Ukraine may be hampered. The resulting annexation may complicate communication with Ukraine on further military support from partners, as Russia will refer to its military doctrine that provides for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in case of attack on its territory.

While the sanctions from the West and international condemnation of Russia’s actions is necessary, the successful counteroffensive and prompt liberation of Ukrainian territories is the best safeguard against the illegal pseudo-referendums. The world must therefore ensure Ukraine is well-equipped in proceeding with returning all its occupied parts under control of Ukrainian government.


  • Olha Aivazovska, Chair of the Board at Civil Network OPORA, co-founder at International Center for Ukrainian Victory
  • Alisa Shushkovska, Senior Legal Advisor of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine
  • Oleh Didenko, Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine
  • Svitlana Kononchuk, executive director of the Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Studies, political analyst.

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