Russia claims Kremlin-installed leaders in Kherson want to join Russia, sidestepping a referendum
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stated previously that a pseudo-referendum in Kherson, Ukraine, will trigger a withdrawal from the negotiation process.
The illegitimate official installed by Russia in the Kherson region at the end of April is asking to join Russia without a referendum or other veneer of legality.
What’s the backstory?
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stated previously that a pseudo-referendum in Kherson, would trigger a withdrawal from the negotiation process. Sidestepping the referendum process may be an attempt to avoid blame for ending negotiations while still claiming more Ukrainian territory.
Portraying Kherson as a willing applicant “dreaming of reuniting” with Russia does not reflect the reality of citizens in the location. Examples of articles with a misleading presentation:
Kherson region authorities to ask Putin to join Russia, from Pravda
Pro-Moscow leaders of Ukraine's occupied Kherson seek to join Russia, from Reuters, which is simply re-publishing TASS
Republishing of Reuters’ republication of TASS: Pro-Moscow Leaders Of Ukraine’s Occupied Kherson Seek To Join Russia
Russia projects legitimacy by putting people in positions of power and then pretending it is only responding to a sincere request. The existence of so-called "separatists" is largely exaggerated and is an example of how the Kremlin skillfully distorts its actions via media reporting.
Even when legitimate media organizations cover the story, the subtle re-framing muddies the clear illegality and injustice. This tempers political will to act since leaders in the West must contend with voter wishes.
A replay of the past
In 2014, the Kremlin created the appearance of an organic separatist movement by sending people to Crimea. These were not Ukrainians who simply wanted to join Russia, but people intentionally placed there to create a misleading impression of the situation. The referendums were widely believed to be rigged and substantial, sophisticated propaganda has been dispatched to influence perception of the situation.
Former Ukrainian President Poroshenko stressed in an interview that the “separatists" were a “terrorist” group "supported by Russia, trained by Russia, armed by Russia." Poroshenko asked in 2014 for these Russian-backed groups to be labeled terrorists by the international community. They were not. Russia has nurtured secessionist movements outside of its borders but it has also violently squelched out any dissent at home—and sometimes even abroad.
Vox reported about the misleading portrayal in 2014:
Separatist rebels began popping up in eastern Ukraine shortly after Russia had invaded and annexed Crimea, where supposed Crimean separatists actually turned out to be unmarked Russian special forces. They seized towns like Sloviansk and Donetsk, in the eastern region known as Donbas, ostensibly in outrage against the protests that had toppled Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, himself from that same eastern region.
This misleading impression, which obfuscated “Moscow’s role in organizing, financing, and arming the separatist forces and leadership,” may partially explain Western inaction.
Other false justifications
Claims of genocide against Russian-speakers are likewise without merit, as the Ukrainian President is well known for being a Russian speaker.
Putin accused the country of Georgia of genocide back in 2008, too, to justify the Russian invasion of Georgia.
EUvsDISINFO has documented articles making false claims about genocide from Russia over the years. In an article addressing the key false narratives from Russia, EUvsDISINFO wrote:
Such claims have been unequivocally debunked by independent Russian media, among others. None of the multiple reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which are regularly published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, or the reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission come even close to referencing genocide in Ukraine.
Where have we seen this before: Throughout the years, the pro-Kremlin media have used the word “genocide” liberally, to describe things that have nothing to do with large-scale human rights violations, thus undermining this term of international law itself. Examples include alleged water and visa “genocide” in Crimea and “genocide” of Ukrainians refusing to buy Sputnik V vaccine.
Playing the hero
False claims about genocide seem to be an attempt to draw a parallel between the NATO airstrikes in the former Yugoslavia that ended several years of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the region. The two situations are not comparable. NATO acted to stop genocide; Russia is perpetrating it.
See the above thread for more details about why the comparisons can’t stand up to scrutiny.