Preparations for the sham referenda are being led by the first deputy head of Russia's presidential administration, Sergey Kiriyenko. Kiriyenko is responsible for overseeing the Russia-held territories in advance of their attempted incorporation into Russia, which would be illegal if completed, Vedal Patel, principal deputy spokesperson at the US State Department, said at a briefing on 30 August.
Commenting on Russia's preparations for sham referenda in occupied territories, he said:
"The US Government has assessed that Moscow is preparing to stage sham referenda in areas of Ukraine under its control. We expect Russia to manipulate the results of these referenda in order to falsely claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia. This is a part of Russia's playbook to attack the sovereignty, identity, and history of Ukraine.
These referenda could take place in the coming weeks. But Ukraine, the United States, and the international community know the simple truth – that all of Ukraine is and will always remain Ukraine. No matter how many Russians soldiers or puppet officials might be installed there, the Kremlin cannot change the borders of sovereign Ukraine by force.
The Kremlin continues to prepare to hold sham referenda on joining Russia in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic. Russian leadership has instructed officials to begin preparing to hold a sham referendum in parts of Kharkiv as well. These sham referenda will attempt to give a veneer of legitimacy to a blatant land grab that would violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law, including the UN Charter, and contravene principles of the OSCE.
As part of the sham referenda, Russia will undoubtedly employ propaganda and disinformation campaigns, falsify voter turnout, and exaggerate the percentage of those who supposedly voted in favor of joining Russia. We want to be clear: Any claim by the Kremlin that the Ukrainian people somehow want to join Russia is a lie. Polling shows that just three percent of Ukrainians say that they would like Ukraine to be a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union, and 90 percent want Ukraine to become a member state of the EU. It will be critical to call out and counter this disinformation in the weeks and months ahead. We expect the results to be predetermined by Kremlin authorities."