We have seen reports on Russian and Ukrainian telegram channels that the Putin-appointed gov’t in Luhansk is calling for a quickly done public referendum for Luhansk to join the Russian Federation as quickly as possible.   If this occurs it would make this stolen piece of Ukraine into Russian territory.

Putin could use this as a pretext to claim that Ukraine(and NATO and the US by extension) were attacking Russian territory. There is speculation that this would result in Russia calling for a general mobilization and a widening of the war itself.

A couple of points stand out here.

One, only countries friendly to Russia have recognized the invented states of Luhansk and Donbas as legitimate countries.  The UN, along with the rest of the world has rejected them on the proper and legal basis that they were part of the sovereign state of Ukraine and were seized byRussia by force.

Russia has had years to conduct this referendum on Luhansk joining Russia and failed to hold it even when doing so in February might have been used to cover their invasion of Ukraine. We may recall that Putin’s reasoning for the invasion had nothing to do with freeing Luhansk and Donbas from Ukrainian occupation. They invaded Ukraine to de-Nazify what remained of the entire country. The failure to take these actions in the 8 years that have passed since they occupied these regions gives indication that they would not be recognized as legitimate or binding.

Russia has tried to do this with Crimea, claiming that it is Russian territory by popular vote. In early March of 2020

Things moved quickly. By early March, Russian troops had secured the entire Crimean peninsula. On March 6, the Crimean Supreme Council voted to ask the population to accede to Russia. A referendum was scheduled for March 16, which offered only two options; join Russia or go with Crimea’s 1992 constitution, a document which gave the region significant autonomy from the government in Kyiv. The status quo which was Crimea remaining part of Ukraine under the current constitution was not even offered.

The conduct of the referendum was plagued with problems and was held without any credible international observers. Crimean authorities reported the turnout was 83 percent, with 96.7 percent voting to join the Russian Federation. Observers quickly pointed to the obvious inconsitency. Ethnic Ukainians and Tartars made up 40% of Crimea’s population.  As it would turn out from a leaked report by Putin’s own Human Rights Counci, the turnout was actually only about 30% with less than half of that 30% voting to join the Russian Federation.