Ukraine's Kyiv government condemns vote in Russia-occupied provinces
Four Russia-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine—Luhansk, Kherson, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia—began referendums Friday on whether the provinces will formally join Russia. Organized by Moscow-backed officials, the voting is likely to go Moscow’s way, and governments of Western countries, as well as Ukraine, have denounced the referendums as illegitimate. Election officials in the region will be bringing ballots to people’s homes and setting up makeshift polling stations in residential areas for the first four days of the referendum. Tuesday will be the only day that residents will be invited to come to regular polling stations, officials said.
Why set up a formal referendum in an area that’s already controlled? Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week pledged to defend Russian territory from outside forces by any means at his disposal. If the regions vote to become a part of Russia, then Putin could possibly defend those territories with nuclear weapons as well, claiming that they are a part of Russia’s territory. Putin also announced a call-up of Russian reservists—as many as 300,000 of them, according to Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister—to deploy to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council presented evidence that Russia has been committing war crimes in Ukraine, such as torturing prisoners with beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity.
Dig deeper: Read Jill Nelson’s report in WORLD magazine about the quest to hold Russia accountable for war crimes in Ukraine.
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