Kremlin-Backed Republics in Ukraine to Hold Referendums on Joining Russia

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Kremlin-Backed Republics in Ukraine to Hold Referendums on Joining Russia

By Geoffrey Smith -- Two Russian-backed regions in eastern Ukraine announced on Tuesday they will hold referenda on joining the Russian Federation this weekend, a move that could lead to Russia claiming that Ukraine had carried the war onto its own territory.

The self-appointed governments of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, which were set up with the Kremlin's blessing and the backing of the Russian military in 2014, both said they will hold votes from September 23rd-27th.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Russian newswires as saying that the decision was "a matter for the people who live there."

The republics' actions come barely a week after the course of Russia's war in Ukraine shifted dramatically in Ukraine's favor, as a successful counterattack recaptured thousands of square miles of territory around the eastern city of Kharkiv, threatening the supply lines of Russia's troops in Donetsk, Luhansk and further to the west and south. They also coincide with a potentially momentous meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the country's defense industry, amid speculation that Putin will call for a drastic intensification of the campaign in Ukraine.

Russia's benchmark stock index lost 9.3% in morning trading in Moscow although the ruble was stable at just below 60 to the dollar. The ruble market has been dominated by the central bank since February when it intervened heavily to stop undesired volatility.

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