Voting begins in Russian-held regions of Ukraine on referendums to become part of Russia

Kyiv, Ukraine — Voting started Friday in Moscow-held areas of Ukraine on referendums to change into a part of Russia, Russian-backed officers there mentioned.

The Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as shams with none authorized pressure, are seen as a step towards annexing the territories by Russia.

The votes are being held within the Luhansk, Kherson and the partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk areas.

The votes, which asks residents if they need their areas to be a part of Russia, are sure to go Moscow’s method. That may give the Kremlin the pretext to say that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are assaults on Russia itself, dramatically escalating the seven-month war.

Russia Ukraine War Referendum Explainer
FILE – A army automobile drives alongside a avenue with a billboard that reads: “With Russia eternally, September 27”, previous to a referendum in Luhansk, Luhansk Folks’s Republic managed by Russia-backed separatists, jap Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. 4 occupied areas in Ukraine are set to start out voting Friday Sept. 23, 2022 in Kremlin-engineered referendums on whether or not to change into a part of Russia, setting the stage for Moscow to annex the areas in a pointy escalation of the practically seven-month struggle.

/ AP

The referendums comply with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order of a partial mobilization, which might add about 300,000 Russian troops to the battle. The balloting will proceed for 5 days by Tuesday.

Because the votes have been getting underway within the occupied areas, Russian social media websites have been filled with dramatic scenes of tearful households bidding farewell to males departing from army mobilization facilities. In cities throughout the huge nation, males hugged their weeping relations earlier than departing as a part of the draft.

Russian anti-war activists, within the meantime, deliberate extra protests in opposition to the mobilization. Widespread demonstrations that adopted the announcement of the partial call-up have seen greater than 1,000 arrests, in keeping with an impartial monitor group. Flights from Russia have been mentioned to be filling up and features of outgoing site visitors on the border with Finland and different nations have been miles lengthy at one level. Visitors was nonetheless heavy Friday morning, the Reuters information company reported.

Russians React To President Putin's Mobilization For War Against Ukraine
Russian police detain protesters throughout an unsanctioned protest rally in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s partial nationwide army mobilization amid the struggle in Ukraine, September 21, 2022, in Moscow, Russia.


Election officers shall be bringing ballots to individuals’s properties and establishing makeshift polling stations close to residential buildings in the course of the first 4 days of the referendums, in keeping with Russian-installed officers within the occupied areas, who cited security causes. Tuesday would be the solely day when the voters shall be invited to return to common polls.

Polls additionally opened in Russia, the place refugees from the occupied areas can forged their votes.

Denis Pushilin, separatist chief of Moscow-backed authorities within the Donetsk area, referred to as the referendum on Friday “a historic milestone.”

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s decrease home of parliament, the State Duma, addressed the occupied areas Friday in an internet assertion, saying: “In case you determine to change into a part of the Russian Federation – we’ll help you.”

Valentina Matviyenko, chair of Russia’s higher parliament home, mentioned that residents of the occupied areas have been voting for “life or loss of life” on the referendums.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy solely briefly talked about the “sham referenda” in his nightly deal with by which he switched from talking in Ukrainian to Russian to instantly inform Russian residents they’re being “thrown to their deaths.”

“You might be already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” he mentioned. “Since you have been silent. Since you are silent. And now it is time so that you can select. For males in Russia, it is a option to die or reside, to change into a cripple or to protect well being. For ladies in Russia, the selection is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren eternally, or nonetheless attempt to defend them from loss of life, from struggle, from one individual.”

The voting takes place in opposition to the backdrop of incessant preventing in Ukraine, with Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanging fireplace as either side refuse to concede floor.

On Friday morning, pro-Russia officers within the Zaporizhzhia area reported a loud blast within the middle of Melitopol, a metropolis that Moscow captured early within the struggle. Official Vladimir Rogov did not provide any particulars as to what induced the explosion and whether or not there have been harm and casualties.

Moscow-backed authorities within the Donetsk area additionally accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the town of Donetsk, the area’s capital, and the close by metropolis of Yasynuvata.

Ukrainian officers, in flip, reported new rounds of Russian shelling in varied elements of the nation. Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv area in southern Ukraine that borders the Kherson area, mentioned explosions rang out within the metropolis of Mykolaiv within the early hours of Friday.

Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk area, mentioned the Russians unleashed a barrage of shelling on Nikopol, a metropolis throughout from the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant, on Friday morning. 

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