The State Duma Speaker says Moscow will respect Donbass? decision on whether to become part of Russia
Should the Donbass republics vote to join the Russian Federation after holding public referendums, Moscow will respect that decision, Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the lower house of parliament, said on Tuesday.
During a plenary session of the State Duma, Volodin stated: "if in the course of a direct declaration of will they say they want to be part of Russia, we will support them." He added that the people of Donbass "must understand today that we expect them to freely express their will."
Volodin's comments came as the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics announced that they will be holding referendums on joining Russia, with the votes set to take place between 23 and 27 September.
The Russian-controlled Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of Ukraine have also confirmed they will be holding similar referendums on the same dates. The Deputy leader of the Kherson military-civilian administration, Kirill Stremousov, stated that residents want to join the Russian Federation as soon as possible because they fear being left behind, and want "guarantees" that Moscow will protect them from Kiev's forces.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.