In the Russian-occupied territories Ukraine The voting deadline for the mock referendums announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin just a week ago ended on Tuesday. According to eyewitness and media reports, the population in those parts of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Cherson and Zaporizhia regions that are under the control of the Russian army were forced, at times by force, to vote in favor of joining the Russian Federation. The sham referendums, which lack any legitimation under international law, are recognized neither by Ukraine nor by the international community. According to the first partial results published by the Russian agency RIA, 96 percent voted yes.
Putin’s speech to both chambers of the Russian parliament is scheduled for Friday. Western secret services and the Ukrainian leadership assume that the President will then create facts and propose that the Federation Council recognize the pseudo-referendums. Then the annexation of the occupied territories to Russia should be formally announced. According to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti A new “Crimea district” is to include the Cherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea regions.
The question had not admitted any alternatives: “Are you in favor of the DNR joining the Russian Federation with the status of a federal subject?” it was called in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. Representatives of the occupation authorities, accompanied by heavily armed soldiers, had gone from house to house urging local residents to vote; this usually took place in public. Many residents had been hiding or barricaded their doors in recent days to avoid being forced to take part in the mock referendums.
In the city of Mariupol, which was occupied by the Russian army and completely destroyed right at the beginning of the war, starving and thirsty residents would be rewarded with a bottle of water if they voted yes, the newspaper reports Kyiv Independent. There are reports from the Kherson region that voters who voted for annexation to Russia would receive more than 500 euros worth of money. Governor Serhiy Hajdaj reports from Luhansk that the occupiers are writing down the names of everyone who votes no. Nevertheless, there are isolated signs of civil resistance.
There will be no voting in the regional capital
In order to increase voter turnout, minors as well as Ukrainians who had fled to Russia or were deported were allowed to vote. According to the British secret service, Russian government officials had set targets for the fake voter turnout and approval rate in the sham referendums, according to which “more than 75 percent” must come out yes votes.
The scheduling of the “referendums” was in many respects an absurd step; in the Zaporizhia region, for example, the occupying forces control just 75 percent of the territory. The regional capital of Zaporizhia, which had a pre-war population of around 750,000, is still under the control of Ukrainian troops. For security reasons, there will be no voting in the city – not even online, a representative of the Russian military had said. The Ukrainian Ministry for the “Integration of Temporarily Occupied Territories” in Kyiv announced that only so-called election observers from Belarus, Syria, Egypt, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Togo and South Africa would monitor the process. Very few of these countries are themselves known to be functioning democracies.
One way or another, the result of the pseudo-vote was certain beforehand, since Putin announced the mock referendums and a partial mobilization of Russian troops at the same time that “accession” of the occupied areas in the east and south of Ukraine would mean that in future they would be subject to the protection of the nuclear power Russia. He warned the Ukrainian leadership that Moscow regards any further attack on this territory as an attack on its own territory and will defend itself with all available means, including the use of nuclear weapons. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine.
The leadership in Kyiv has threatened charges of treason against Ukrainians taking part in the polls. According to Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak, anyone who took part could face up to five years in prison. There are apparently hundreds of collaborators, but anyone who is forced to participate against their will, Podoljak said, will not be punished.