'Sham' Vote Begins: 'Do You Wish to Secede From Ukraine?'

Ukraine denounces 'propaganda show'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 7:05 AM CDT
'Sham' Vote Begins: 'Do You Wish to Secede From Ukraine?'
Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, speaks to the media as he opens voting in a referendum in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.   (AP Photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the "sham referenda" as voting in Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine began Friday. The ballots being distributed in four regions asked, "Do you wish to secede from Ukraine and create an independent state that will enter the Russian Federation?" per the New York Times. NATO has also condemned the votes, calling them "blatant attempts at territorial conquest." Russia controls almost all of two of the regions where votes are being held, Luhansk and Kherson, but only a fraction of the other two, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, the Times notes.

Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podalyk called the votes a "propaganda show" and said "there is no legal action called a 'referendum' in the occupied territories," the Guardian reports. The votes are being held by pro-Russia separatists in the territories, but voting is also taking place in Russia, where displaced Ukrainians from the occupied regions are casting ballots, the AP reports. Voting will continue until Tuesday. Officials will be bringing ballots to people's homes, a move that Ukraine's governor of Luhansk warned could be an attempt to find more men eligible for conscription. Ukrainian officials say workers are being forced to vote and ballots are being given to children as young as 13.

The exiled mayor of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia said people should stay away from polling stations, but they "should follow the instructions of the militants" and "not put yourself and your loved ones in danger" if forced to take part in the vote. Ukrainian partisans have blown up buildings where ballots were being stored and targeted officials in charge of the voting, the Times reports. The outcome of the Russia-controlled vote is in little doubt, and analysts say annexation of the occupied territories will "dramatically escalate" the war by allowing Russia to claim that attacks on the territories are attacks on Russia itself, the AP reports. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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