Ukraine: start of annexation referendums by Russia in areas controlled by pro-Russians
Eva Deschamps / September 23, 2022
Referendums on annexation by Russia began Friday in regions of Ukraine controlled entirely or partly by Moscow, polls described as "sham" by Kiev and the West and which mark an escalation of the conflict.
These votes are to be held until September 27 in the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (east), and in the Russian-occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporijjia (south), in the midst of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
These polls, announced earlier this week and hastily organized, have been strongly denounced by the Ukrainian government and its Western backers, who accuse Moscow of seizing entire swathes of territory, such as the Crimean peninsula (south) in 2014.
If the result of these referendums is not in doubt, they announce in any case an escalation of the conflict, Moscow going so far as to threaten nuclear strikes to defend what it considers to be "its" territory.
"The holding of this referendum is a historic step (...) We are going home!" said the leader of the pro-Russian separatist region of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, in a video posted Friday morning on Telegram.
While fighting is still raging, the electoral body of the Donetsk separatists has indicated that "for security reasons" the vote will be held mainly door-to-door for four days, with polling stations opening "only on the last day", September 27.
Thus, 450 and 461 polling stations will be opened respectively in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the east. Zaporizhia will have 394 and the Kherson region in the south 198.
Several polling stations have also opened in Russia to allow voting by "refugees" who have fled the fighting, according to Russian news agencies.