Despite facing significant military setbacks in Ukraine over the past few weeks, Putin and Russia clearly refuse to be deterred in their efforts to seize control over at least part of their neighbor. As such, Russia has decided to throw their support behind the referendums announced by the Russian-occupied, self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). The voting on these referendums will occur between September 23 and September 27. Russian-installed officials in the occupied region of Kherson have also signaled support for a referendum on their future as well.
Given that these referendums are occurring in illegally occupied territories, propped up by the Russian invaders, the United States and Ukraine both have already stated that they are illegal, and that any results will not be recognized. Dmitry Medvedev, a former president of Russia and current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, stated that any voting outcome would be binding and irreversible, thereby giving Russia the right to legally defend what would then be its own territory.
With that in mind, Putin has already called upon Russian producers of military equipment to increase production and the supplies able to be sent to Russian forces in Ukraine. The move follows debate in Russia's lower house of Parliament about how the "special military operation... in Ukraine has turned into a full-fledged war." Moreover, Mikhail Sheremet, a lawmaker that belongs to the ruling United Russia party who sits on the Duma's Security Committee, said "Without full mobilization, moving to a war footing, including for the economy, we will not achieve proper results. I'm talking about the fact that today’s society should be consolidated as much as possible, with the goal of victory."
While it is becoming clear that the Russian war in Ukraine is entering into a new phase, given the poor military performance of the invaders so far, even the general mobilization of the country and the official declaration of war might not be enough to tip the scales in their favor. It may even cause upheaval domestically. The next days and weeks will be key in determining the directions of how the war will develop.