What next after the "referendums" in eastern Ukraine?
In hastily arranged polls controlled by the Russian military in four Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, between 87 and 99 percent of participants reportedly voted to join Russia. According to Moscow's logic, once these regions have been annexed the Ukrainian army would be deemed an aggressor on Russian territory that can be fought with all means, including nuclear weapons.
Keep a cool head
The West must remain cool-headed in the face of Moscow's escalations, the Kleine Zeitung writes:
“When votes are cast at gunpoint you can be sure of the result: 95 percent of Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories voted for their regions to be annexed to Russia, according to Russian state media after the initial vote count - which, incidentally, is taking place in Russia. ... This step is accompanied by nuclear threats with which the Russian leadership has been trying to strike fear into the hearts of the Western world since February. ... These are troubled times. We have no choice but to keep a cool head.”
No joy in these territorial gains
Given the prospect of an escalation, Radio Kommersant FM detects a lack of enthusiasm among Russians regarding the territorial gains:
“The final decision in the Kremlin will probably only come at the last moment. There are plenty of options on the table to choose from. It is safe to say that the Russian people, ordinary and otherwise, and even the elites, are hardly pleased at the prospect of being wiped off the face of the earth by a nuclear or even conventional strike - even if that could mean ending up in paradise. To be clear, there is little sign of a party mood in Russia.”
Putin playing with an open hand
That Putin is increasingly revealing his intentions is a hopeful sign, La Libre Belgique puts in:
“By playing its cards one after another - full-scale invasion, indiscriminate massacres, energy and nuclear blackmail - the Kremlin is exposing the true nature of its policies and allowing us to consolidate public opinion in Europe vis-à-vis the existential challenge it poses to Ukraine and the West. By playing the partial mobilisation card together with the 'referendums', it is also opening the eyes of the Russian population to the dangers of its adventurism. One can only hope that the Russians will draw the consequences from this.”