Russia’s war on Ukraine

Cars pass advertising boards, including panels displaying pro-Russian slogans, on a street in the course of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Luhansk, Ukraine on September 20. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

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

The referendums, called on 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 or no international observers beyond delegations from Russia.

“There is no referendum as such. It is imitation. Local residents ignore it. Some people are simply forced to vote. There are buses of people who brought it from Crimea to vote,” Andriy Yusov said, a Ukrainian Defense Intelligence officer. CNN.

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

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

Pro-Russian officials in the occupied territories are enthusiastically pushing the referendums as a historic turning point.

“Today is a day that happens in history once every few centuries. I personally know that it will happen, always. I always feel that I am part of a big family called Russia. Dreams come true,” Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed leader. of the Kherson region administration, said on his Telegram channel.

In his vote, Saldo said he was sure that as part of the Russian Federation, “our Kherson region and above all its people will be protected. Protect by all means.”

The leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, also voted, saying, “I feel awe and confidence that what we have fought for so long will come true. This is Homecoming. Back to great Russia. The history is being done now.”

Voting continues until Tuesday.