Why is Russia calling votes in occupied Ukraine?

Why is Russia calling votes in occupied Ukraine?

After seven months of war, Vladimir Putin is on the back foot. Ukraine's counter-offensive has recaptured swathes of territory seized in the months after Russia's 24 February invasion.

Putin is under pressure from hardliners to respond, and backing Crimea-style referendums (Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014) provides his critics with an answer.

Russian media have already released opinion polls claiming widespread support for joining Russia in the four regions but they are as spurious as the votes being held in the middle of a war, with no proper scrutiny or legitimacy.

They have been rejected as a sham by the international community but President Putin may feel that declaring occupied areas as Russian territory could change the course of the war, as it will enable him to tell Ukraine's Western backers to stop supplying arms being used to hit "Russian" lands.

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