Election workers were flanked by Russian military who were armed and were wearing balaclavas. Russian government representatives or their agents stood watch while Ukrainians were made to vote. Many citizens ran inside their homes out of fear that casting a vote against Russia’s annexation might result in their kidnapping or worse.
On Friday, as Russia started organising staged referendums throughout the Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine, local Ukrainians there expressed a mixture of rage, defiance, and dread that their country was being stolen by force in what they dubbed a sham poll.
Voting in these referendums, which began on Friday of last week, is taking place in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia in the south and in two areas in the east of Ukraine.
The referendums take place at a time when Russia is on the defensive because Ukraine’s counteroffensive has recovered land that Moscow had taken during its invasion in February.
Additionally, Vladimir Putin declared the intention to partially mobilise the nation’s 2 million-strong military reserves. He said “to defend the motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity”. The West interprets the action as an escalation.
“Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the special military operation and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict”, it said.