Coercion is being used in the referendum in occupied Ukraine, Ukrainian officials claim

Coercion is being used in the referendum in occupied Ukraine, Ukrainian officials claim
Coercion is being used in the referendum in occupied Ukraine, Ukrainian officials claim

Kyiv/Moscow – Hastily organized voting began today in Moscow-controlled or occupied parts of Ukraine, which pro-Russian authorities describe as referendums on joining Russia. Kyiv and the West consider the event a fraud. According to the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podoljak

for a legal referendum, but only a propaganda show for mobilization. According to images in Russian media, pro-Russian administration officials are going door to door with portable ballot boxes to get people to vote, AFP reported. At the same time, Russian television showed footage of people throwing their votes into mobile urns in various halls or courtyards.

An adviser to Ukrainian Mariupol mayor Petro Andryushchenko accused pro-Russian forces of using coercive tactics, according to CNN. “The main means of coercion during voting is door-to-door agitation,” wrote Andryushchenko in a telegram on the social network. “The commission consists of two people with a ballot box and ballot papers and two armed men,” he said. “They’re knocking on apartment/house doors, forcing neighbors to get people to come to the commission. Pressure, pressure and more pressure. In fact, they’re offering to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at gunpoint,” according to the mayor’s adviser, who says they are polling stations in shops or cafes, but they are empty.

“Today, it would be best for the people of Kherson not to open the doors,” Yury Sobolevskyi, Ukrainian deputy chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, said in a telegram on the network. People are being forced to fill out “pieces of paper” with no privacy in their kitchens and backyards, while cities are closed to prevent them from leaving and avoiding voting, according to the head of Ukraine’s Luhansk regional administration, Serhii Hajday, Reuters reported. In the city of Starobilsk, pro-Russian authorities barred residents from leaving the city until Tuesday and sent armed groups to search homes and force people to participate in the referendum, Hajdaj said.

Voting takes place in the self-proclaimed pro-Russian Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, into which the Russian occupying forces have “incorporated” parts of other areas they still hold. Residents of the mentioned parts of Ukraine who are now in Russia can also come to cast their vote, but according to Russian Internet sources there is confusion about where they should do so. The plebiscite is scheduled to last five days. For the first four days, members of the election commissions will visit the homes of local residents, the independent server Meduza and the Russian-language website of the BBC reported. According to them, the polling stations will also be open on the last day. The occupation authorities explain the decision as a concern for the safety of residents, many of whom will have to vote in front-line settlements.

In the DNR and LNR, the ballots, according to the media, have only one question – whether to join the Russian Federation, which can be answered yes or no. In the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, answers to three questions are requested – whether the voter is in favor of secession from Ukraine, whether they are in favor of creating an independent state and whether they are in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The Russian news agency TASS reported that less than a thousand observers are participating in the referendum in the DNR. She later announced that there are also about 130 observers from abroad in the DNR, from Venezuela, Italy, Romania, Togo or South Africa. “Their number is constantly growing,” the agency quoted the Central Election Commission as saying. At the same time, she wrote that observers are also in other occupied regions. In the case of LNR, she cites a man named Jaromír Vašek, who she says is an observer from the Czech Republic. He claimed, according to TASS, that he did not notice any voting violations in Luhansk and “everyone is ready to vote for joining Russia.”

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which routinely monitors various elections, said that the results of the current vote in Ukraine will not be legally valid because the action is contrary to Ukrainian laws and international law, taking place in areas where there is no security , and independent observers do not participate.

Kyiv and its Western allies had previously called the referendums a fraud. Their officials said they would not recognize the results; they consider the vote to be just a step by Moscow towards the illegal annexation of another Ukrainian territory. Russia says the referendums are an opportunity for the region’s residents to have their say.

The official results are widely expected to support the accession to Russia. According to CNN, Hajdaj said today that Russia will calculate a result that will be favorable for it. “The opinion of the population has no meaning,” he said.

In the meantime, the Unian agency wrote that pro-Russian authorities brought a crowd from the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed already in 2014, to the occupied Melitopol in the Zaporozhye region. According to Unian, these people are supposed to take part in the filming of propaganda clips about the population’s alleged support for the referendum on joining Russia . At the same time, the agency referred to the exiled mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov. According to him, in addition, there are the first reports that the residents of Melitopol do not open the doors to the officials visiting the apartments and do not respond to their calls. “We can confirm that this referendum is a fraud,” Fedorov said.

The claims of individual parties to the conflict could not be independently verified.

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The article is in Czech

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