Today I have this piece by reporter Alyona Zadorozhnaya. The headline is:
Possible Scenarios For Conducting A Referendum in DPR
I have been thinking a lot recently about one of the strange paradoxes of war; and this never had occurred to me before, because I am kind of dumb. In my naivete I always assumed that, dating back to the first primitive human tribes, the function of an army (of primarily young men) was to protect the non-army people: the women, children, elderly, non-combatants, etc. The tribe, in other words. The young men are expendable, that is why they are expected to give up their lives for the others.
But then, observing this war and reading more about other wars, it suddenly struck me (an obvious point, actually, I’m sure everybody else already figured this out long ago) that, at a certain point in warfare, the roles suddenly get flipped. The army becomes more important than those it is protecting. Now it is the army that must be saved. The civilians are, at best, an impediment; and, at worst, expendable. I remember reading somewhere that Churchill was delighted when the Germans started focusing their bombings (i.e., wasting bombs) on civilian targets. Perverse as it sounds, the idea is: Let the civilians take the brunt of it, let them soak up the enemy weapons into their bodies; fewer bullets directed at those who really matter: the troops.
Yesterday, in one of his podcasts (“The Duran”), the inestimable Alexander Mercouris made this point quite eloquently when he was discussing the Russian Bakhmut/Artemovsk Offensive, why it is so important, and why the Russians had to delay it once before, in order to focus on Peski. The more the Ukrainians punished the civilians of Donetsk city with their shellings, the more the Russian army had to turn aside from its main target, from Bakhmut-Slavyansk, to less strategic places like Peski and Andreevka, in futile attempts to dry up the sources of the shelling. Alexander connected the recent vicious shellings of Donetsk city with the Ukrainian tactic of “diverting” the Russians again. He clearly explained the Ukrainian logic in this, and why it isn’t just pure evil on their part. I mean, it’s still evil, but it’s not just mindless malignancy. In other words, by using up their HIMARS rockets to target random civilians going out to fill their water flasks, say, in downtown Donetsk, the Ukrainians are, like, waving their arms and shouting, “Over here! Over here” and trying to distract the Russian units from their much more strategic Bakhmut offensive.
It’s an upside-down world now, where the lives of say, 5 innocent mothers and their children, are expendable; and the husky young men need to conserve their own lives in order to, say, storm Bakhmut and thus win the war. Hence, from a purely military, heartless point of view, it would be better for the army if these civilians just soaked up the bombs and bullets, and left the army to do its main business.
On the other hand, civilians are not necessarily willing to line up selflessly like sheep for the slaughter. This is the context behind the push for having referendums as soon as possible. Even if this is somewhat “inconvenient” for the Russian government and army. But the pro-Russian population of DPR/LPR and Kherson/Zaporozhie feel that, if they become officially part of Russia as soon as possible, then the Russian army will feel more of an obligation to protect them. They saw what happened to the people in Izyum, who were, essentially, abandoned by the Russian army. Be that for extremely good strategic reasons, but still…
Kiev’s Biggest Nightmare
The reporter quotes a man named Vladislav Berdichensky, who is a Deputy in the DPR Parliament: “The Peoples Soviet of the DPR intends to empower the Head of the Republic, Denis Pushilin, to submit a request to join the Russian Federation. In my view, the classic referendum can be conducted safely. The mood of the residents is quite clear.
“This would be a way of appealing to the Russian authorities to help us, as soon as possible, to liberate their territories. Everybody can see how cruelly the Republics are being bombed and shelled. […]
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) are very determinedly pounding at the places where peaceful civilians are likely to congregate. And these rockets are falling upon places where there is absolutely no military target or anything connected to the military infrastructure. We regard this as genocide.”
Berdichevsky concedes that there are technical impediments: “A problem with having the referendum now is that around 40% of the DPR territory is still under [Ukrainian] occupation. Hence, it is not completely clear how the people living there would have a chance to vote. There is an analogous situation with the refugees who are not living within the boundaries of the Republic. In this case, however, the option of online voting might be feasible.”
Berdichevsky says that Pushilin will submit the request to Putin; but, in the end, the decision will be up to Putin. They are hoping that the referendum can be conducted as early as November 4. This will be synchronized with the LPR and other liberated territories, so they can all vote at the same time. Parliamentary Deputy Viktor Vodolatsky from the LPR: “People are tired of waiting.”
Dmitry Medvedev, who is much more hawkish than Putin, supports the notion of timely referendums. As he tweeted on his telegram feed: “After conducting these referendums and accepting DPR/LPR into the body of the Russian Federation, the transformations taking place in the world will acquire an irreversible character, since any attack on Russian territory per se, will bring about the use of all and any forms of self-defense.
“But it is no less important to note, that, after making these amendments to our Constitution, no future leader of Russia, not one responsible ruler, can ever overturn these decisions. And this is the main reason why, in Kiev and Western capitals, they fear these referendums so much. And this is precisely the reason why it is necessary to do them.”