Home World In Ukraine, voting begins in four mock referendums

In Ukraine, voting begins in four mock referendums

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Vwithdrawing into pretense On the morning of September 23, referendums began in four predominantly or partially occupied regions of eastern and southern Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson. Many of the Kremlin’s favorite tricks were deployed. In the city of Kherson, the authorities brought an unmarked ballot box to the central square, accompanied by two shooters, who urged citizens to vote. Elsewhere in the city, election officials went door to door with riot police. “Voting” was recorded on park benches, in shops and even in makeshift booths in police stations, better known locally as torture cells. There are reports of doors being broken in Melitopol to facilitate the voting process. Locals describe empty streets and a minimum of enthusiasm. The result is beyond doubt. The “vote count” will “show” that the residents would like to be ruled by the invading power, Russia.

The administrations of four Russian-backed provinces announced plans for a five-day plebiscite earlier this week after months of rumors and counter-rumors. The speed with which they are carried out makes it unlikely that the spectacle will convince even Russians of their legitimacy. But in recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have achieved such stunning successes on the battlefield that the Kremlin seems to have come to the conclusion that it must act quickly. If he announces that the provinces have agreed to be annexed by Russia, he will be able to argue that Ukraine’s attempts to reclaim Ukrainian land are actually attacks on Russia itself.

Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of Melitopol in Zaporozhye, says that Ukraine intended to ignore the “illegitimate” referendums. He adds that he was worried about the safety of Ukrainians living under occupation. Men of military age are especially vulnerable. It is expected that immediately after the fake votes, Russia will intensify the military mobilization of Ukrainians in the occupied territories, forcing them to fight against their compatriots. “Russia wants to take these people into the army to turn them into cannon fodder,” he said. 37-year-old Uladzimir Mikhaltsenkov from the occupied town of Energodar in Zaporizhzhya confirms that the Russian military no longer allows men aged 18-35 through checkpoints into the territory of Ukraine. Luckily for him, he was old enough to be let through.

There are no reliable public opinion polls in the occupied territories — not least because most of their citizens have fled. Russian state broadcasters released poll results with wild claims of 80%-90% support for annexation. The final result, which is likely to be announced on September 27, is likely to be projected close to these numbers. Mr. Fedorov claims that internal Russian polls, which he says were leaked to him, show that less than 10% of residents are expected to take part. The government of Ukraine called on its citizens to abandon this process. The press secretary of the president, Mikhail Padalyak, said that anyone who helps in the conduct of pseudo-referendums can be held criminally liable. “This is an attempt to create a parallel propaganda reality,” he says. “But nothing changes for Ukraine. We will continue to liberate our territories regardless of Russian fantasies.”

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