Ukraine: there is a risk of escalation of the conflict, with the announcement of annexation referendums, points out a former French ambassador to Russia

The holding of referendums of annexation by Russia organized in urgency in four regions of Ukraine poses a risk of escalation of the conflict, estimated Tuesday on franceinfo the researcher Jean de Gliniasty, director of research at Iris, former ambassador from France to Russia from 2009 to 2013.

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“Any ground threat to these territories will be considered an existential threat to Russia”, assures Jean de Gliniasty. According to him, Vladimir Putin “takes away all ability to negotiate the future of these territories”.

franceinfo: Is there a risk of escalation with the organization of these referenda?

Jean de Gliniasty: Yes. Because by doing this in hasty conditions and by calling into question the little credibility that remained of these referendums, there is the fact that these referendums will allow Russia to integrate these territories. This means that Russia is burning its ships. That is to say that it can no longer go back and that it announces, for the outside, that it will defend these territories as its own territory, with all that that implies. Any ground threat to these territories will be considered an existential threat to Russia.

Did Vladimir Putin choose to headlong?

In a way, yes. Because it takes away all ability to negotiate the future of these territories. There are no more negotiations possible. There is a message for the outside, that is to say “do not touch what we have integrated into our territory”. That’s for the outside. And for the interior, there are two things.

“There is first of all the fact of reassuring the populations who have sided with Russia in these territories. They greatly fear a purge, difficulties with the Ukrainian authorities in the event of a Ukrainian reconquest. There, that means, ” we won’t let you go. And that’s very important.”

Jean de Gliniasty, research director at Iris

at franceinfo

And by doing this, Putin gives pledges to his extreme nationalist right. We have seen lately, on television and elsewhere, statements that implicitly, sometimes explicitly, accuse Putin of being too soft. There, it is a much greater danger for Putin in terms of domestic politics than the left, which is still quite evanescent. So to give pledges to these people, Putin says, we are going to secure, in quotation marks, the territories that we have occupied.

Does it have the means to do so without going through a general mobilization?

The Duma unanimously adopted a number of amendments to the Penal Code both to toughen the penalties for deserters and then to reinforce what is called the state of war. So that gives Putin leeway without decreeing general mobilization. So, there are instruments that allow the Russian authorities to expand their recruiting capacities, to take authoritarian measures. All this would be an intermediate stage before the general mobilization.

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