Occupied Ukraine holds Kremlin-staged vote on joining Russia

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KYIV: Voting began on Friday whether occupied areas Ukraine should be part of RussiaIn the referendum that Kyiv and the West denounced as an illegitimate and rigged attempt by Moscow to annex the regions to the East and South after nearly seven months of war.
In the midst of voting, UN experts and Ukrainian officials pointed to new evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. Officials in the Kharkiv region said a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium contained hundreds of bodies, with at least 30 displaying signs of torture.
Kremlin-orchestrated referendums in Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled zapsorizia And the Donetsk regions asked residents if they wanted the region to become part of Russia. Moscow’s established authorities are almost certain to oversee the Tuesday-run vote Kremlinthe way of
Russian-established officials in the Kherson region said residents of a small Moscow-controlled region of the neighboring Mykolaiv region would also be able to vote, and that that small region was “included” in the Kherson region as long as all Mykolaiv was not captured by the Russians. forces
Ukraine and the West have denounced the vote as a sham and an illegitimate step towards the annexation of a large part of the country from the Russian border to the Crimean peninsula. A similar referendum took place in Crimea in 2014, before Moscow annulled it, a move that most of the world considered illegal.
Election officials plan to bring ballots to homes and set up temporary polling stations near residential buildings in the first four days of voting, according to Russian-established officials in the occupied territories, who cited security reasons. Russian state TV on Friday morning showed teams of election officials walking into a residential neighborhood, a group that was accompanied by a masked police officer carrying an assault rifle.
Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhya region, told The Associated Press that Russians and residents of Crimea were brought to his city to urge people to vote.
“Russia sees enormous reluctance and fear to participate in the referendum and is forced to bring people … to create an image and the illusion of votes,” he said. “Groups of Allies and Russians are going door-to-door voting with armed soldiers, but few open the doors for them.”
Voting also began in Russia, where refugees and other residents of those regions could vote.
Denis Pushilin, the separatist leader of the Moscow-backed authorities in the Donetsk region, called the referendum “a historic milestone”.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said in an online statement addressing the regions: “If you decide to become part of the Russian Federation, we will support you.”
The Luhansk government Serhi Haidai accused Russian officials of naming those who voted against it. In an online post, Haidai also alleged that Russian officials threatened to shut the doors of anyone who did not vote and shared photos of what appeared to be a pair of deserted polling stations.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Only briefly mentioned the “sham” referendum in an address in which he switched from speaking Ukrainian directly to Russian to tell Russian citizens that they were “being thrown to their death.”
“You are already a participant in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” he said. “Because you were silent. Because you are silent. And now it’s time for you to choose. For men in Russia, it’s a choice to die or live, become crippled, or preserve health. For women in Russia, The alternative is to lose one’s husband, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to save them from death, from war, from one person.”
The vote takes place against the backdrop of incessant fighting in Ukraine, in which Russian and Ukrainian armies exchanged fire as both sides refused to accede to the ground.
Kharkiv Regional Government Ole Sinyehubov, and the Chief of Police of the Region, Volodymyr TymoshkoAt least 30 of the 436 bodies exhumed so far in Izium had traces of torture. Among them were the bodies of 21 Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom were found tied behind the backs of their hands, he said.
Russian forces occupied Izium for six months before being pushed out of the area by a Ukrainian retaliation earlier this month. Residents said the forest burial site was discovered after they were forced to dig graves there.
The excavations, which began a week ago, are nearing an end as investigators work to identify the victims and the cause of death. A mobile DNA lab was erected at the edge of the burial site.
“Each body has its own story,” said Sinyehubov.
Experts commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday also presented evidence of possible war crimes, including beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention facilities, and expressed serious concern about the killings that Team Kharkiv and Was working to create documents in the regions of Kyiv. Chernihiv and Sumy.
As the referendum began, more men in Russia prepared to join the fight in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a partial mobilization of reservists that the defense minister said could add about 300,000 troops.
In vast cities across the country, men hugged their crying family members before departing as part of a call-up, raising fears that a wider draft might follow. Anti-Russian activists plan to stage a protest against the mobilization on Saturday.
Ukraine’s presidential office said at least 10 civilians were killed and 39 others were injured in Russian shelling in nine Ukrainian territories in the past 24 hours.
It said fighting continued in southern Kherson during the vote, while Ukrainian army troops launched 280 attacks on Russian command posts, weapons depots and weapons in the region.
Heavy fighting also continued in the Donetsk region, where Russian attacks targeted Toretsk, Sloviask and several smaller towns. Russian shelling in Nikopol and Marhanets on the west bank of the Dnieper River killed two and wounded nine in Marhanets.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malayar said military casualties could be as high as 9,000 soldiers killed in action because authorities still do not know whether the three-month siege of Mariupol fell to the Russians in May. How many were killed in
Malayar nevertheless said that Ukraine’s losses were much less than that of Russia. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu It was previously reported that 5,937 Russian fighters had been killed.



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