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Russia may attempt to annex Donbas soon: Luhansk regional governor

According to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern Ukrainian Luhansk Region, the Russians may attempt to annex the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in order to portray any Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region as an invasion of Russian territory.

“Their plan is as follows: they occupy the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, immediately conduct a referendum, make the decision to incorporate these territories into the Russian Federation, and then, once Ukraine will conduct a counteroffensive and will be liberating the occupied territories, Putin will announce, that Ukraine started a war against Russia and so a full mobilisation needs to be announced,” Governor Haidai told the Livyy Bereh news website.

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According to Governor Haidai, Ukraine will only be able to launch a counteroffensive once its military is sufficiently well-armed. He went on to say that retaking the territories occupied by Russian-backed separatists was impossible in 2014 because the Ukrainian army was too weak.

“The counteroffensive will be the third stage of the war. This is what the order of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to retake the territories in southern Ukraine refers to,” said Haidai.

Putin’s Russian citizenship decree

Before any referendums are organised, Russia has been trying to strengthen its claims on the occupied areas of Ukraine by granting Russian citizenship to local residents, in some cases pressuring Ukrainians to apply for it.

On July 11, Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the granting of Russian citizenship to all citizens of Ukraine. According to the decree’s provisions, all applications should be processed within three months. The decree lifts the requirement for the applicants to have resided in Russia for a period of five years or pass a citizenship test. Similar provisions earlier applied only to residents of separatist “people’s republics” and occupied areas of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, quickly reacted to Putin’s decree calling it “a new infringement of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and condemned it. Minister Kuleba stressed that western countries should also react to Putin’s decree by imposing new sanctions against Russia and increasing the deliveries of weapons to Ukraine.

Retaking the occupied territories

There were some voices among western politicians and intellectuals, especially French and German, for the need to bring a war to a swift end, perhaps even at the cost of Ukraine giving up some of the territories to placate Russia, allowing Putin “to save face”.

Any such suggestions have been vehemently rejected by the Ukrainian government, which stresses that no peace will be possible unless all territories within internationally recognised borders of Ukraine return under Kyiv’s control.

Not all in the West, however, are as naive as to believe that Russia can be placated with territorial concessions in the long term. Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French philosopher and journalist, said in an interview published by French “L’Express” weekly on Monday, that making peace with Putin is “a guarantee of an even more horrifying war”.

“There are no things Putin knows more about than war,” said Lévy, who has been warning about the threat of a full-scale Russian invasion back in 2014. He believes that so-called “realists” and “sovereignists”, as well as pacifists, are fundamentally wrong regarding the scale of the Russian threat. Lévy also thinks opinions that NATO somehow provoked the Kremlin through its Eastern “expansion” are dangerous.

In an earlier interview that the French philosopher gave to “Times of Israel” last week, he said that for a long time he thought “that the order of the world is at stake here, that the outcome of this war will change our destinies in Europe, in America, in the West in general, including here.” He also stressed how, although not a “world war”, the impact of the conflict is felt around the world. “It is a ‘globalised war,’ which has a butterfly effect in every part of the planet. In Africa, there is now a crisis of wheat and hunger which is created by Russia.”

According to Lévy, Putin’s greatest ally in the conflict is “the fatigue of Europe, the fatigue of America.”

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