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Russian proxies overseeing the referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine Friday have begun intimidating citizens who remain in war-torn areas, forcing them to “vote.”
Occupying regional officials in Luhansk, Dontesk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson began voting Friday on whether Ukrainians in the occupied regions will allegedly decide to secede from Ukraine and join Russia – a process Western nations have called a “sham.”
According to one local Ukrainian official in Luhansk, Russian proxies, accompanied by “armed men,” have begun knocking on people’s doors to force them to vote.
“If a person doesn’t open the door, (Russian forces) threaten to break in. When a person ticks ‘no’ in the ‘ballot,’ they make notes,” Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai said on Telegram, according to a translation by Kyiv Independent.
Russian news outlets said “voting” would begin Friday at people’s homes for “security reasons,” and that polling stations will be opened Tuesday, the final day of voting.
Though some in-person polling stations have been opened in the Donbas.
The Luhansk governor claimed that “door-to-door search[es]” were being completed to find fighting-age men for mobilization as Russia looks to beef up its forces.
Preliminary vote results will allegedly be released Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the elections a “farce” and reaffirmed that Kyiv’s military aims will not change no matter what Russia claims the referendum outcomes are.
Moscow has already threatened to treat any attack on the Donbas, which is made up of both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and where fighting continues, as an attack on Russia if the regions “vote” in the affirmative to be annexed.
“Immediately…the Constitution of the Russian Federation will come into force in relation to the territories,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told state owned outlet TASS. “If there is an act of entry of these territories into the Russian Federation, then, accordingly, the relevant provisions of our constitution will already work.”
Western nations have already said they will not acknowledge any results of the election, and all Ukrainian regions will remain internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine.
The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly called Russia’s attempts to annex occupied portions of Ukraine a “sham,” and said it is a straight copy of what happened in 2014, when Russian held a referendum on annexing Crimea.
Russian’s claimed election results showed that some 97% of Crimeans supported seceding from Ukraine.
However, reporting after the election showed that only 30% of Crimeans even voted in the referendum. Additionally, of those who voted, 15% supported joining Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday accused Moscow of “bussing in” Russians to participate in the vote.