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breaking news Voting begins in occupied parts of Ukraine on referendums to join Russia in ballot branded a sham by the West


By Reuters IST (Released)

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Voting is beginning in occupied parts of Ukraine on referendums to join Russia in a ballot branded a deception by the West.

Voting began Friday in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine in a referendum Russia is expected to use to justify annexing four regions, with a Ukrainian official saying the vote was compulsory.

“Voting has begun in the referendum on the integration of the Zaporizhzhia region into Russia as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation! We are going home! Good luck, my friends!” said Vladimir Rogov, an official in the region’s Russian-backed administration.

The referendums were widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, said that in the Russian city of Bilovodsk, the head of a company told employees that the referendum was compulsory and that those who refused to vote would be fired and their names given. to the security department.

He said that in the city of Starobilsk, Russian authorities had banned people from leaving the city until Tuesday and that armed groups had been sent to search homes and force people out to take part in the referendum.

Voting in the four regions of the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to take place from Friday to Tuesday.

The votes come after Ukraine this month recaptured large swaths of territory in a counter-offensive, seven months after Russia invaded and launched a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and damaged the global economy.

Referendums had been discussed for months by pro-Moscow authorities, but Ukraine’s recent victories have prompted officials to scramble to schedule them.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin also this week announced a military appeal to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, Moscow appears to be trying to regain the upper hand in the conflict.

Russia says it is an opportunity for people in the region to express their views.

“From the start of the operation…we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their destiny,” the official said this week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. .

Ukraine says Russia intends to present the referendum results as a sign of popular support and then use them as a pretext for annexation, similar to its 2014 takeover of Crimea, which the community international has not recognized.

JUSTIFY SELF-DEFENSE

“Encroachment on Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all forces in self-defense,” Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, said in a message on Telegram.

The results of the referendum in favor of Russia are considered inevitable. The vote in Crimea in 2014, criticized internationally as rigged, had an official result of 97% in favor of formal annexation.

The referendums have been denounced by world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Mock referendums” are “illegal and illegitimate”, NATO said.

The OSCE, which monitors the elections, said the results would have no legal force because they do not comply with Ukrainian law or international standards and the areas are not secure.

There will be no independent observers and much of the pre-war population has fled.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together form the Donbass region partially occupied by Moscow in 2014, as independent states.

Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions, with only around 60% of the Donetsk region in Russian hands.

Ukraine said the referendums were a sign that Russia was scared. “Any decision the Russian leadership might take changes nothing for Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

“What interests us are strictly the tasks ahead of us. It is about liberating our country, defending our people, and mobilizing global support (public opinion) to carry out these tasks.

Putin says Russia is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine, rid it of dangerous nationalists and defend Russia against NATO.

Kyiv and the West are calling Russia’s actions an unprovoked imperialist attempt to reclaim a country that shed Russian rule with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

‘LOSSES’

The Ukrainian General Staff said that Russia launched attacks in the Donetsk region and that Ukrainian shelling injured a Russian general in the Luhansk region.

“The enemy continues to take casualties, especially among the leadership,” he said on Friday.

Russia reportedly lost several high-ranking commanders during the seven-month war.

The leader of the Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk has denounced the Ukrainian attacks as “cynical barbaric bombardments” intended to cause as much damage as possible to civilians.

“This is why we want to act quickly and with more determination with measures such as the organization of the referendum”, declared Denis Pushilin.

Reuters is unable to verify battlefield reports.


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