The Insider has obtained documents suggesting that the occupied territories of Ukraine are preparing for a referendum on their accession to Russia. And not just the “LDNR”, but also the territories seized after February 24. The government draft already contains target figures for the results of the vote and a plan to “consolidate the winning result”. At the same time, the Kremlin openly admits: the fate of the Ukrainians and their territories will be decided by the Central Election Commissions of Russia and Belarus.
Documents obtained by The Insider show that the Kremlin has already decided to annex all of the occupied Ukrainian territories to Russia, and, judging by the current plan, everything should be ready as early as September for a “referendum” legitimizing the annexation, although a specific date has not yet been confirmed. Despite the fact that the strategy does not explicitly state that the results of the “referendum” are to be falsified, the Russian authorities have already decided on the outcome: the number of votes “for” the annexation must be such that it should constitute an absolute majority of voters in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (that is, 1.2 million people in the case of the Donetsk region, for example).
At the same time, the Kremlin “strategists” do not hesitate to say that state opinion polls before the elections should prepare the public for the target result for the “legitimization of the referendum”:
According to the documents, the organizers of the “referendum” are well aware that they will not be able to ensure normal voting under conditions of war, so they plan to repeat Putin's experiment with the “stump vote” of 2020, designed to legitimize the extension of Putin's term of power. Though this strategy does not openly prescribe voting on tree stumps, it prescribes voting in buses and tents.
The requirements for the precinct commissions in the conditions of war are also minimal: a laptop and a printer are sufficient.
But the main problem is not even the lack of premises and equipment, but the lack of people. In the Donetsk region alone, 44 territorial commissions and as many as 850 precinct commissions must be assembled. Even in peacetime this is no easy task, but it’s completely impossible during wartime.
The Kremlin understands that it will not find enough Ukrainians willing to participate in the organization of such a referendum, so it has decided to invite workers for the PECs and TECs from Russia. For this purpose, the occupied territories were divided into precincts and distributed among the Russian regions. For example, Buryatia will take control of the Starobeshevo district of the Donetsk region, the Chelyabinsk region will be responsible for Yasinovataya, Moscow for Donetsk, St. Petersburg for Mariupol. At the same time, the Russian CEC will delegate the heads of regional election commissions, who will become the heads of the TECs on the Ukrainian territory. In other words, it will be up to Ella Pamfilova to count the results of the vote in Ukraine.
Even with all the falsifications, the Kremlin has no hope for a positive outcome of the voting; therefore, it is mainly focused on the voting of refugees living in Russia and Belorussia.
Thus, the Kremlin is not even embarrassed to openly admit that it is the CECs of Belarus and Russia that will decide the fate of Ukrainians and their territories:
Although the result of the voting seems to have been predetermined in advance, the Russian authorities still need a high turnout for a good picture, and they will do everything possible to encourage it, including promises of “rational maintenance” and “social guarantees.”
The organizers of the “referendum” are not even trying to pretend that they are a neutral party, which just tries to learn the mood of the local population, and plan to actively encourage people to vote for accession to Russia. They have been unable to come up with anything more clever than slogans like “Donbass is the heart of Russia.”
The concept of the Kremlin PR-campaign is unpretentious, built mainly on the old propaganda clichés, including drawing attention to the fact that for 8 years people had been dying in Donbass (there’s no mention of those who had started the war 8 years ago, of course), and the promises of an influx of money from Russia. There are, however, some very original finds in this PR-campaign, such as the amount of Ukraine's national debt, which sounds self-ironic, given that the Russian national debt is 10 times higher, and Russia cannot pay it due to sanctions. The promise to bring the laws of the occupied territories into full compliance with Russian law, that is, in essence, to allow the authorities to imprison people for social media reposting, to ban protests, and to introduce censorship, does not sound too tempting either.
The Kremlin is not so much concerned about the results, which are already predetermined, as about “protecting them,” as they call it. The entire series of events to celebrate the annexation of the new territories to Russia has been already planned. This optimistic approach is largely reminiscent of the mood on February 24, when the Russian Guard drove into Ukraine bringing dress uniforms with them in the preparation to celebrate the imminent victory.
Judging by the schedule of preparations for the PR-support of the “referendum,” the decision on conducting it was made in June, at a time when it finally became clear that the Russian offensive had run out of steam and that the Kremlin couldn’t claim any more territories except those already occupied.
It is not clear from the documents examined by The Insider whether Russia will lay its claim on the occupied territories outside the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in September, such as those in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. This, however, is unlikely, as there is active fighting going on in those territories, and it is quite possible that by the time of the referendum there will be nothing left there under Russian control.