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Christo Grozev, one of Bellingcat's contributors and a senior researcher at Risk Management Lab, has said the Kremlin is considering a referendum on the disputed Kuril Islands to legitimize the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

"Moscow source: 'A referendum [on the] Kuril Islands is being considered resulting in partial handover of [the] islands to Japan. [The] goal is to legitimize [the] Crimean referendum and reset relations with the West. The referendum will be tightly managed; majority of territory will remain in Russia,'" he wrote on Twitter on January 14, 2019.

Grozev later explained how the "Kremlogic" works: "1. We stand for self-determination; 2. We allowed Kurillers to secede, ergo we permitted [a] fair referendum on Crimea."

UNIAN memo. Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 after its troops had occupied the peninsula. An illegal referendum was held for Crimeans to decide on accession to Russia. De-facto Crimean authorities reported that allegedly 96.77% of the Crimean population had voted for joining Russia. On March 18, 2014, the so-called agreement on the accession of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia was signed in the Kremlin. The West did not recognize the annexation in response to which sanctions against Russia were introduced. Ukraine's parliament voted to designate February 20, 2014, as the official date when the temporary occupation of Crimea began.