"Referendums" on union with Russia have started

In the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine (excluding Crimea) “referendums” began on Friday. With them the connection of the areas to Russia to get prepared. This applies to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, whose “People’s Republics” (DNR and LNR), created in 2014 and largely controlled by Russia, had only been recognized by Moscow as states three days before the outbreak of war, and for the largely occupied Zaporizhia and Cherson regions. DNR media showed the ballot used there: “Are you in favor of DNR joining the Russian Federation with the status of a federal subject?” This can be voted yes or no.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

The "head" of the DNR, Denis Puschilin, commented on the voting with the words: "Donetsk is coming home". politicians of Ukraine spoke of a "show". Ukraine and the West do not want to recognize the new annexation – after Crimea in 2014. The vote should run until Tuesday, for security reasons "in the area close to houses", i.e. apparently with mobile ballot boxes, and one day in polling stations. About 200 polling stations have been set up in Russia for Ukrainians living there. LNR media showed ballot boxes in a tent and on a bus. Around noon, a high turnout was reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the procedure for a connection could go quickly in the event of a positive vote. President Vladimir Putin had announced that he would defend the areas "by all means", which raised concerns about the use of nuclear weapons. London's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly revealed the findings of the British secret services on Thursday evening. He said in New York, "that Russian officials are making specifications for the fabricated voter turnout and approval rating in the sham referendums." It should therefore be "more than 75 percent" yes votes.

Image: FAZ

The voting slips were printed in Russia. The Russian script provides that Moscow first recognize the independence of Kherson and Zaporizhia; it had already done so for the two “People's Republics”. By the end of the month, all four areas are to be included in the Russian Federation. Moscow will then describe any attempt by Ukrainian forces to liberate the areas as an "invasion of Russia," Cleverly said.

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