BBRAVE Ukrainians in an occupied city have REFUSED to vote in Putin’s mock referendum, despite being threatened with gunfire by Russian soldiers.
The referendum to join Russia was launched Friday in the Russian-controlled parts of the Kherson, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk regions – 15 percent of Ukrainian sovereign territory.
A Russian mercenary with the symbol of the infamous Wagner military group stands guard outside a polling station in occupied Ukraine
Credit: Russia 24
Voters are flanked by gunmen as they vote in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine
Armed soldiers go door to door collecting votes in Zaporizhzhya referendum
The mock referendum has largely been crushed by the international community, as soldiers went door to door asking for votes at gunpoint, and mobile polling stations were set up in the open air.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said the vote was “more like a gun barrel poll”.
Fewer than 60,000 people remain in the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhya Oblast region of southeastern Ukraine, where more than 150,000 people lived before Russia invaded Ukraine.
While citizens in occupied territories across Ukraine have expressed fear of repercussions if they refuse to vote, fewer than one in five Melitopol residents actually voted.
The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, described a feeling of resistance in his city.
“Fewer than 60,000 of its 150,000 inhabitants are now in the temporarily occupied city of Melitopol and are being held hostage by Russia.
“The occupiers have been trying to hold a fake referendum for three days, but it failed. However, this will have little effect, because we understand that the results are already known,” Fedorov said in the Telegram messaging app.
The exiled mayor explained how Russian occupiers went from “apartment to apartment”, flanked by gunmen to gather votes over the three-day period, “and could only find 20 percent of the residents”.
“Only 10 percent of them were forced to vote ‘for’ the support of the Russian Federation,” he added. “We understand that they voted against their will, under pressure, at gunpoint.”
The leader explained how “if other people live there, they are forced to vote for the apartment owners”, adding that Russian occupiers also “caught people on the street” to force them to vote.
Russian soldiers also threatened to kill residents’ families if they refused to vote. The names of those who voted against joining Russia have been removed, reports say.
Russia, meanwhile, claimed it had soldiers to oversee the vote for “security reasons”.
A day before the referendum, Fedorov warned that Ukrainian men living under Russian control would be used as “cannon fodder” on the front lines.
The mayor openly encouraged men aged 18 to 35 to “immediately leave the occupied territory via the Crimean-Georgia route” to avoid Russian mobilization in the occupied territories.
At the time, he said men could not leave the area and he believed male residents would be drafted into the Russian-backed armed forces.
Melitopol was one of the largest cities that fell seven months ago.
‘Sham’ vote to escalate the war
It is expected that the predetermined voting results could lead to these territories gaining independence (rejecting control of Ukraine completely) before being incorporated into the Russian Federation.
If annexed by Moscow, Russia’s aid regions would automatically be “under the full protection” of Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
And there are real fears that Putin could quickly escalate the war.
Experts believe Putin could use the annexation of Russian-occupied regions to claim his territory is under attack from Western weapons — such as NATO — supplied to Ukraine.
The vote is expected to last until Tuesday.
The latest staged vote reflects another fraudulent vote he issued in Crimea in 2014 after Russia invaded the region. At the time, the illegal referendum — which Russia claimed to have won with claimed 96.7 percent of the support — was rejected by the international community.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss criticized the “mock referendum” on Sunday.
She told DFN, “I don’t think he could have foreseen the power of the free world’s response.
“We shouldn’t listen to him” [Putin’s] saber rattling and his false threats. Instead, we must continue to impose sanctions on Russia and continue to support the Ukrainians.”
The annexation vote in these areas threatened by the Ukrainian army’s successful counter-offensive comes as ravaged and isolated Russia carries out a massive mobilization – an additional 300,000 troops.
Russia’s chaotic mobilization has sent newly mobilized recruits to the front lines with untidy AK-47s either jammed or completely covered in rust, or conscripts sent to fight without training.
Tatyana Dotsenko explained how her 45-year-old husband Andrei Kozyrev was mobilized in their city of Lipetsk before being sent to the front line in Donbas with 1,000 other men assigned to the 237th Tank Regiment – with “one day of training” and “no medical inspection.” “.
Brave citizens have protested en masse against compulsory military service.
Dramatic images emerged on Sunday of a major protest in Makhachkala in Dagestan – an epicenter of Russian resistance.
Hundreds of protesters were arrested as thousands tried to flee the country, leading to thousands of arrests.
According to OVD-Info, more than 2,000 Russians have been arrested for protesting Putin’s mobilization policies in 33 cities across the country, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Chita and Ivanovo.
Dramatic footage showed officers dragging protesters, some accused of illegal demonstrations and in some cases discrediting Putin’s armed forces, which could face up to 15 years in prison.
It followed the arrest of more than 1,300 protesters on Wednesday after Putin’s announcement on live TV.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russian conscripts to sabotage the military from within.
He said during his address on Saturday: “If you come into the Russian army, sabotage any enemy activity, hinder Russian operations, give us all the important information about the occupiers – their bases, headquarters, ammunition warehouses.
“Avoid conscription letters. Try to reach the free territory of Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, desperate Russians have been frantically trying to flee the country to avoid being sent to the front lines.
Huge queues have formed at the borders with Finland, Georgia and Mongolia as men rush to get married to avoid being conscripted.
Flights have also been disrupted, with fares for travel on Russian flag carrier Aeroflot reaching up to £10,000.
The vote gives citizens two options on whether or not to join Russia
Thousands of anti-mobilization protesters have been arrested in Russia
Police officers arrest man protesting mobilization in Moscow