Officials in Russian-occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine were forcing people to vote “under a gun barrel,” residents said on Saturday as staged referendums — intended to validate Moscow’s annexation of the territory it occupies — entered their second day.
Voting is taking place in portions of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and will last five days, ending Tuesday. The outcome is not in doubt.
The purported referendums are illegal under Ukrainian and international law and would not remotely meet basic democratic standards for free and fair elections. Western leaders, including President Biden, have denounced the process as a “sham” to prepare the ground for Russia’s theft of Ukrainian land.
In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to the Russians, warning that “no tricks will help the occupier.”
Moscow officials and their separatist proxies have said that they expect the vote to be in favor of absorbing the areas, a process that will be completed “promptly” once the results are official, according to the Kremlin. [Continue reading…]