In the regions of Ukraine controlled by Russia, a referendum on joining Russia begins

Kyiv, Ukraine Voting began on Friday in the Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine on referendums on joining Russia, officials there, supported by Russia, said.

Referendums staged by the Kremlin, which were held widely condemned by Ukraine and the West as a fake without any legal force, are considered as a step towards the annexation of territories by Russia.

Voting is taking place in Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye and Donetsk regions, which are partially controlled by Russia.

A vote asking residents whether they want their regions to be part of Russia is sure to go in Moscow’s favor. This would give the Kremlin a reason to claim this attempts by Ukrainian troops to regain control there are attacks on Russia itself, which are sharply increasing seven-month war.

Explanation of the military referendum in Russia and Ukraine
FILE – A military vehicle drives down a street with a billboard reading, “With Russia forever, September 27,” ahead of a referendum in Luhansk, Luhansk People’s Republic, controlled by Russia-backed separatists, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. On Friday, On September 23, 2022, four occupied regions of Ukraine will begin voting in Kremlin-planned referendums on whether to become part of Russia, setting the stage for Moscow’s annexation of the territories in a sharp escalation that has lasted nearly seven months. war.

/ AP


Referendums follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilization, which could add about 300,000 Russian troops to the fight. Voting will continue for five days until Tuesday.

While voting was taking place in the occupied regions, Russian social networks were full of dramatic scenes of tearful families saying goodbye to men leaving military mobilization points. In cities across the vast country, men hugged their tearful family members before leaving for the draft.

Meanwhile, Russian anti-war activists planned new protests against mobilization. Widespread demonstrations that followed the partial conscription announcement led to the arrest of more than 1,000 people, according to an independent monitoring group. Flights from Russia are reportedly filling up, and outbound lines at the border with Finland and other countries were at one point kilometers long. Traffic is still heavy on Friday morning, Reuters reports.

Russians reacted to President Putin's mobilization for war against Ukraine
Russian police detain demonstrators during an unauthorized protest against President Vladimir Putin’s partial national military mobilization amid the war in Ukraine, on September 21, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.

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Election officials will deliver ballots to people’s homes and set up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings during the first four days of the referendums, according to Russian-appointed officials in the occupied regions, who cited security concerns. Tuesday will be the only day when voters will be invited to the next polling stations.

Polling stations were also opened in Russia, where refugees from the occupied regions can vote.

Denis Pushylin, the separatist leader of the Moscow-backed authorities in the Donetsk region, called Friday’s referendum a “historic milestone.”

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, addressed the occupied regions on Friday in an online statement, saying: “If you decide to join the Russian Federation, we will support you.”

The Speaker of the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament, Valentina Matsviyenko, said that residents of the occupied regions are voting “for life or death” in referendums.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky only briefly mentioned the “fake referendums” in his late-night address, in which he switched from Ukrainian to Russian to directly tell Russian citizens that they were being “thrown to death.”

“You are already complicit in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” he said. “Because you were silent. Because you are silent. And now it’s time for you to choose. For men in Russia, it is a choice to die or live, to become crippled or to keep healthy. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, and grandchildren forever, or try to protect them from death, from war, from one person.”

The vote comes amid ongoing fighting in Ukraine, with Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanging fire as both sides refuse to budge.

On Friday morning, pro-Russian officials in the Zaporozhye region reported a powerful explosion in the center of Melitopol, a city that Moscow captured at the start of the war. The official, Uladzimer Rohau, did not provide details on what caused the explosion and whether there were any casualties or damage.

The Moscow-backed authorities of the Donetsk region have also accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the city of Donetsk, the region’s capital, and the neighboring city of Yasinavata.

Ukrainian officials, in turn, reported on new rounds of Russian shelling in different areas of the country. Vitaly Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv Oblast in southern Ukraine, which borders Kherson Oblast, said explosions rocked the city of Mykolaiv early Friday morning.

Governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Region, Valyantyn Reznichenko, said that on Friday morning, the Russians shelled Nikopol, a city across the Dnieper from the Zaporozhye NPP.

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