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Kremlin says up to Donbass population to decide on referendum to join Russia

"Firstly, it must be the people’s will, secondly, proper conditions must be set in place to organize referendums," Dmitry Peskov stressed

MOSCOW, June 2. /TASS/. Arranging potential referendums to join Russia in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), the Kherson Region and Zaporozhye requires the will and the desire of the people living there as well as ‘certain conditions,’ Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

Peskov’s statement comes on the heels of an earlier remark made by the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, who said that referendums on the territories of DPR, LPR, the Kherson Region and Zaporozhye were likely to be organized this summer.

"It is not up to the Kremlin to make decisions on [the organization of] referendums," Peskov told journalists. "We have repeatedly stated that it is completely up to the people living on these territories to decide on their future."

"Firstly, it must be the people’s will, secondly, proper conditions must be set in place [to organize referendums]," the Russian presidential spokesman said.

Asked by a correspondent to specify the nature of possible conditions on the issue, Peskov said: "It is obvious that at the times, when security in not fully guaranteed given that we see continuous strikes by Ukrainian troops and nationalists targeting these territories, we don't see the possibility of talking about this [the organization of referendums] right now."

"We need to have - a) The will and desire of the people; b) to organize a set of required conditions," he stipulated.

Russia’s military operation in Donbass

The situation along the line of engagement in Donbass escalated on February 17. Back then, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) reported the most massive bombardment by the Ukrainian military in months, which damaged civilian infrastructure and inflicted casualties upon the population.

On February 21, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would recognize the sovereignty of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Moscow recognized the Donbass republics in accordance with the DPR and LPR constitutions stipulating the boundaries of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as of the beginning of 2014.

Russian President Putin said in a televised address on February 24 that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics, he had made a decision to carry out a special military operation in Ukraine. The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories, noting that the operation was aimed at the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.