Putin Plans to Annex Ukrainian Provinces Holding Referendums: ISW

Vladimir Putin's announcement to partially mobilize the population also included a pledge to back referendums in four Ukrainian provinces to join the Russian Federation, which

a U.S. think tank said was a prelude to their annexation. Russian-appointed occupation officials in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts announced Tuesday that

they will hold a "referendum" on acceding to Russia with voting to start on Friday. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the Kremlin would use the falsified

results of these "sham referenda" to illegally annex all Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. This would broaden the domestic legal definition of "'Russian' territory under

Russian law," enabling Moscow to legally and openly deploy troops to fight in eastern and southern Ukraine. Putin hoped that the annexations would aim to deter Ukraine's

counter-offensives by framing Ukrainian attempts to liberate occupied territory as attacks on Russia, according to ISW. The annexation plans were for a domestic audience

and would be part of an "appeal to Russian ethnonationalism and the defense of purportedly 'Russian peoples,'" the assessment said. This was because Putin realized that

current Russian forces "are insufficient" to control Ukraine and voluntary mobilization was falling short in replenishing the large troop losses. "Putin has neither the

time nor the resources needed to generate effective combat power," the ISW added in its assessment that came hours before Putin made his televised announcement about partial

mobilization.