Russia must not be allowed to steal another country’s territory

The “referendums” under Russian military occupation are nothing but a farce. The fabricated results have no legitimacy.

Russia’s move to annex Ukrainian territory based on a popular opinion that does not exist is an obvious violation of international law and an act of aggression.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the process of unilaterally annexing four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine into Russia. Putin has signed documents on the annexation with pro-Russian representatives from the four regions, which are to be ratified by the Russian parliament.

Moscow is basing the annexations on “referendums” held by pro-Russian administrators in areas under Russian control in the four regions. Although it has been claimed that 90% of residents voted in favor of annexation, no semblance of democratic elections was held.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continues in the four regions, and many residents have fled from the areas. Voting took place only in areas controlled by pro-Russian administrators.

It has also become clear that armed soldiers accompanied election officials door-to-door to force people to vote. There was no transparency in the ballot counting process. It was the same kind of “yes-is-your-only-choice” election that took place when Russia annexed Crimea in southern Ukraine in 2014.

If such actions are allowed to go unchecked, cases of major powers annexing other countries’ territories based on fake referendums could become rampant. “Any annexation of a state’s territory by another state … is a violation of the principles of the U.N. Charter,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, condemning Russia. “It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

The international community has to reaffirm the principle of respect for sovereignty and territory on such occasions as the U.N. General Assembly and make clear that it rejects Putin’s delusions such as that the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine historically belong to Russia.

One of the reasons for Putin’s haste to expedite the annexation process is that Russia is struggling against a Ukrainian counteroffensive. By declaring the regions Russian territory, Putin probably hopes to put a stop to the Ukrainian military offensive, and U.S. and European military support for Ukraine.

Unlike at the time of the annexation of Crimea, however, there is no sign of a heightened celebratory mood in Russia. People trying to escape mobilization are flooding into border areas, causing widespread unrest and anxiety. The annexation can never be described as a “war achievement.”

It is obvious that many Russians do not find the current situation desirable. If the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, opposition to Putin will grow stronger and his footing will be shaken.

It is not surprising that the United States, Europe and Japan have taken the position of not recognizing any of Russia’s claims. The act of a major power taking another country’s territory by force is a challenge to the entire international community. More countries must extend support to Ukraine and impose sanctions against Russia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2022)