Russian war in Ukraine

Vehicles drive past billboards, including panels with pro-Russian slogans, on a street during the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in Luhansk, Ukraine on September 20.
Vehicles drive past billboards, including panels with pro-Russian slogans, on a street during the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in Luhansk, Ukraine on September 20. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials say residents of Russian-occupied territories are ignoring referendums organized by the local Kremlin-backed authorities, but they acknowledge that in some cases residents are being forced to vote.

The referendums, held Tuesday in four parts of Ukraine under Russian control, have been widely denounced by Western governments as a sham and are being conducted with few, if any, international observers outside delegations from Russia.

“There is no referendum as such. It is imitation. Locals ignore it. Some people are just forced to vote. There were buses with people bringing it from Crimea to vote,” said Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian defense chief. intelligence officer, CNN.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said it had uncovered documents showing that the Russian separatist-backed Donetsk People’s Republic was planning to expand its electorate by including teenagers under the age of 18 in the vote.

To increase control over “turnout”, Donetsk officials have decided that minors should be accompanied to polling stations by their parents, guardians or representatives of so-called orphanages, SBU added.

Pro-Russian officials in the occupied territories have enthusiastically pushed the referenda as a historic change.

“Today is a day that happens once every few centuries in history. I personally knew it would happen, always. I’ve always felt like I was part of a huge family called Russia. Dreams have come true,” he says. Vladimir Balance, the head with a Russian back. of the Kherson region, said on his Telegram channel.

While casting his vote, Saldo said he was confident that, as part of the Russian Federation, “our Kherson region and especially its people will be protected. Protected in every way.”

The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, also cast his vote, saying: “I feel a sense of awe and confidence that what we have fought for so long is finally coming true. This is Homecoming. Great Russia. History is going to be made today. written.”

The vote lasts until Tuesday.

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