Voting began on Friday in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine in referendums that Russia is expected to use to justify the annexation of four regions, with one Ukrainian official reported as saying voting was mandatory.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, said that in the Russian-held town Bilovodsk, the head of one enterprise told employees the referendum was mandatory and those who refused to vote would be fired and their names given to the security service.
He also reported that in the town of Starobilsk, Russian authorities banned the population from leaving the city until Tuesday and armed groups had been sent to search homes and coerce people to get out to take part in the referendum.
If you felt a disturbance in the force just now, that was probably Russian occupation officials in eastern Ukraine kicking off their annexation plebiscites. Five glorious days of illegal voting to “legitimize” Russia’s latest land grab. pic.twitter.com/zw9eSbWX8j— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) September 23, 2022
The referendums, having been discussed for months by Moscow collaborators and widely condemned by the West, come after Ukraine this month recaptured large swathes of territory in a swift counteroffensive.
People in Kherson voting to become part of Russia.— WOLSNED 🇬🇧 (@wolsned) September 23, 2022
If it happens, the Ukraine conflict takes on a very different dimension, Putin is literally pulling the rug from underneath NATO's feet by using something called 'democracy', a concept lost in the West.pic.twitter.com/5iUq5L941x
With Russian strongman Vladimir Putin also announcing earlier this week a partial military mobilisation to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin appears to be trying to regain the upper hand in the conflict.
Pasechnik launched a referendum in the LNR pic.twitter.com/oXBLqOKxBS— Спринтер (@Sprinter88000) September 23, 2022
Voting begins in four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine on whether to join Russia pic.twitter.com/mT8te1YyTX— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) September 23, 2022
“Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president (2008 - 2012), said in a post on Telegram.
Flights departing Moscow and St. Petersburg today. The @AP is reporting international flights departing Russia have either sold out or skyrocketed in price after Putin announced a mobilization of reservists.— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 21, 2022
Search SVO, VKO, DME for Moscow airports and LED for St. Petersburg. pic.twitter.com/LV2PrkwPD9