Russia replaces deputy defence minister amid annexation vote

Published September 25, 2022
Refugees from Ukraine regions held by Russia cast their ballot for a referendum at a polling station in Rostov-on-Don on September 24. — AFP
Refugees from Ukraine regions held by Russia cast their ballot for a referendum at a polling station in Rostov-on-Don on September 24. — AFP

KYIV: Russia announced on Saturday the replacement of its highest-ranking general in charge of logistics amid a mobilisation drive for the Ukraine military operation after Kyiv claimed to have recaptured some territory, while Kremlin-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine voted for a second day on becoming part of Russia.

“Army General Dmitry Bulgakov has been relieved of the post of deputy minister of defence” and will be replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the defence ministry said on Telegram.

Mizintsev, aged 60, is under British sanctions over his role in the siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, seized by Russian troops in May.

The changing of the guard comes a day after voting on whether Russia should annex four regions — Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — started, dramatically raising the stakes seven months after Moscow’s troops invaded.

Mizintsev under British sanctions over Mariupol siege; G7 says ‘referendum’ lacks legitimacy

US President Joe Biden has dismissed the referendums as a “sham... a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law”.

Even Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war began in February, reacted. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in comments made to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at the UN General Assembly on Friday, said the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected”.

Integration

During the voting process, authorities are going door-to-door for four days to collect votes. Polling stations then open Tuesday for residents to cast ballots on the final day. Results are expected as early as late Tuesday or Wednesday.

The snap referendums were announced just this week after a Ukrainian counter-offensive seized most of the northeast Kharkiv region, bringing some settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.

Legitimacy

Putin this week warned that Mos­cow would use “all means” to protect its territory, which former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on social media could include the use of “strategic nuclear weapons”.

The referendums recall the one held after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denounced the polls, on Friday calling them “crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine”.

G7 nations declared the polls will “never” be recognised and have “no legal effect or legitimacy”.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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