In Vesti Nedeli, VGTRK war correspondent Mikhail Andronik talks about the so-called referendums taking place in the regions of Ukraine occupied by Russia. In his opinion, these regions are inhabited mainly by Russians who seek to reunite with Russia. This thesis is formulated in the plot by Father John, the rector of the monastery located in Melitopol, Zaporozhye region:
“Most feel like Russians. How did we become Ukrainians? They handed us passports, where they wrote that we were Ukrainians. Nobody asked us. And everyone, roughly speaking, was deprived of this citizenship. And people feel Russian.”
On the website of the program, the story is titled “The Zaporozhians were made Ukrainians without asking.”
According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, there were 1,926,810 inhabitants in the Zaporozhye region, including 1,364,095 Ukrainians (70.1%) and 476,748 Russians (24.7%). Ukrainian was named by 1,417,220 people (73.6%) as their native language, 474,169 people (24.6%) said Russian.
In Melitopol, before the war, the Russian population was larger than in the region as a whole, but even there the majority were Ukrainians: in 2008, 158 thousand people lived in the city, of which 87,750 Ukrainians (55.6%) and 62,050 Russians (39. 3%).
There are even more Ukrainians in the Kherson region than in Zaporozhye: according to the 2001 census, 82% Ukrainians and 14.1% Russians.
In another story in the same issue of Vesti Nedeli, Sergei Lavrov is quoted as saying about "referendums". At a press conference during a session of the UN General Assembly, the Russian Foreign Minister stated :
“The West has thrown a tantrum because of the ongoing referendums. But the people living there, in fact, only react to what President Zelensky recommended to them in one of his interviews in August 2021. Then he advised everyone who feels Russian to “go to Russia” for the sake of their children and grandchildren. This is what the inhabitants of the mentioned regions are doing now, taking their lands with them.”
Lavrov distorted Zelensky’s words: he advised not ethnic Russians to move to Russia, but those who consider Russia, not Ukraine, their country. In August 2021, in an interview with the Dom TV channel, the President of Ukraine spoke as follows:
“I believe that if you live in the territory of Donbas today, temporarily occupied, and you think that this is a right thing for us to go to Russia, here we are Russians, it is a big mistake to remain living in Donbas. It will never be Russian territory. Just never.
If you think that you love Russia, and have been on the territory of Ukraine all your life, feeling that this is Russia, if you feel that way, then I think that this person should understand: for the sake of your children and grandchildren, you already need to go and look for yourself place in Russia. This is right".