Members of the local electoral commission gather at a polling station ahead of the planned referendum in Donetsk
Members of the local electoral commission gather at a polling station ahead of the planned referendum on the joining of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's republic to Russia, in Donetsk, Ukraine September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko Photo: Reuters/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO
world

Russia starts annexation vote in parts of Ukraine

64 Comments
By Pavel Polityuk

Voting began on Friday in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine in a referendum that Russia is expected to use to justify the annexation of four regions, with one Ukrainian official reported as saying voting was mandatory.

"Voting has started in the referendum on Zaporizhzhia region becoming a part of Russia as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation! We are coming home! Godspeed, friends!" said Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russian-backed administration of that region.

The referendums have been widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, said that in the Russian-held town Bilovodsk, the head of one enterprise told employees the referendum was mandatory and those who refused to vote would be fired and their names given to the security service.

He said that in the town of Starobilsk, Russian authorities banned the population from leaving the city until Tuesday and armed groups had been sent to search homes and coerce people to get out to take part in the referendum.

Voting in the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to run from Friday to Tuesday.

The votes come after Ukraine this month recaptured large swathes of territory in a counteroffensive, seven months after Russia invaded and launched a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and damaged the global economy.

The referendums had been discussed for months by pro-Moscow authorities but Ukraine's recent victories prompted a scramble by officials to schedule them.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin also announcing this week a military draft to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, Moscow appears to be trying to regain the upper hand in the conflict.

Russia argues that it is an opportunity for people in the region to express their view.

"From the very start of the operation ... we said that the peoples of the respective territories should decide their fate, and the whole current situation confirms that they want to be masters of their fate," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week.

Ukraine says Russia intends to frame the referendum results as a sign of popular support, and then use them as a pretext for annexation, similar to its takeover of Crimea in 2014, which the international community has not recognized.

By incorporating the four areas into Russia, Moscow could justify military escalation as necessary to defend its territory. Putin on Wednesday said Russia would "use all the means at our disposal" to protect itself, an apparent reference to nuclear weapons. "This is not a bluff," he said.

"Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defense," Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russia's president from 2008 to 2012, said in a post on Telegram.

Referendum results in favor of Russia are considered inevitable. The vote in Crimea in 2014, criticized internationally as rigged, had an official result of 97% in favor of formal annexation.

The referendums have been denounced by world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The "sham referenda" are "illegal and illegitimate," NATO said.

The OSCE, which monitors elections, said the outcomes would have no legal force because they do not conform with Ukraine law or international standards and the areas are not secure.

There will be no independent observers, and much of the pre-war population has fled.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states.

Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions, with only around 60% of Donetsk region in Russian hands.

Ukraine has said the referendums were a sign Russia was running scared. "Any decision that the Russian leadership may take changes nothing for Ukraine," Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.

"Of interest to us are strictly the tasks before us. This is the liberation of our country, defending our people and mobilizing world support (public opinion) to carry out those tasks."

Putin says Russia is carrying out a "special military operation" to demilitarize Ukraine, rid it of dangerous nationalists and defend Russia from NATO.

Kyiv and the West call Russia's actions an unprovoked, imperialist bid to reconquer a country that shook off Russian domination with the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine's General Staff said Russia had launched attacks in the Donetsk region and that Ukrainian shelling had wounded a Russian general in the Luhansk region.

"The enemy continues to suffer losses, in particular among the leadership," it said on Friday.

Russia has reportedly lost several high-ranking commanders during the seven-month war.

The head of Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk denounced Ukrainian attacks as "cynical barbarian shelling" intended to cause as much damage as possible to civilians.

"That is why we want to act quickly and with greater resolve with measures like the staging of the referendum," said Denis Pushilin.

Reuters is unable verify battlefield reports.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


64 Comments

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Its going to be all the more humiliating for Putin as he watches the Ukrainians get these territories back.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

When these provinces “vote” to become Russian, things will start getting very tasty indeed.

Kaboom.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

Now that he’s shipped out all the people who want to stay in Ukraine, shipped in his supporters, and his army is running away almost as fast as his diplomats, he’s going to have a sham referendum.

And then Ukraine will liberate it and take back what is rightfully Ukraine’s.

And then The moronic midget will have a decision to make:

Triple down on the stupid and escalate (because his crap army couldn’t move a bowel, much less a Ukrainian unit) and have a direct confrontation with the West in a conflict he WILL lose,

Or…..

tuck his tail between his legs, declare victory of some kind, and retreat back to mother Russia.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Bungle,

The only thing going Kaboom are mini-me’s tanks as they cook their crews and his air farces as they decelerate upon impacting the ground.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Russia's actions an unprovoked, imperialist bid to reconquer a country that shook off Russian domination with the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

The provokation was Putin's fear of peoples he didn't like being near his borders; he like other territory grabbing dictators is unable to accept nations, besides the one they rule might be sovereign. And Putin also wanted to re-establish the USSR, plus he was frustrated because most Ukrainian people have been more content as an independent nation rather than a puppet state of Moscow. Plus Ukraine's leader Zelensky is Jewish, a people which ultra-nationaist Russians, among other European far right extremists, have feared and persecuted for centuries. Putin sent his Wagner Group, made up of neo-Nazi mercenaries, to try to assassinate Zelensky. But so far they have failed, unfortunately the Russians are still committing atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere so there is still time for Putin to keep some of his armies in Ukraine killing.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

The Russians have already been told that the use of tactical nuclear weapons will result in a decisive conventional response that will destroy Putin politically, will be substantive from a strategic point of view and that the West will go from defending Ukraine to ending the Putin regime.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

The vote in Crimea in 2014, criticized internationally as rigged, had an official result of 97% in favor of formal annexation.

Anyone who has visited Crimea will be able to tell you that Crimea is very Russian. That it got a huge majority is not surprising. 97% may be a little exaggerated but not by much.

-13 ( +5 / -18 )

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, said that in the Russian-held town Bilovodsk, the head of one enterprise told employees the referendum was mandatory and those who refused to vote would be fired and their names given to the security service.

He said that in the town of Starobilsk, Russian authorities banned the population from leaving the city until Tuesday and armed groups had been sent to search homes and coerce people to get out to take part in the referendum.

They completely misunderstand free elections.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Nemo, the only reason he still has an airforce is because they spend less time in the air over Ukraine than russian tank turrets!

The vote is a fraud, the whole exercise is a a ludicrous facade to distract from his failure and triggered by the panic and fear of the quisling collaborators in the fake “administrations” of the temporarily occupied territories.

Everything within the 1991 borders is legitimately, legally and internationally recognised as Ukrainian and no stuffed ballot boxes and fraudulent referendums can change that by one iota. It merely highlights the emptiness of his claims and the illegitimacy of brutal, bloody and criminal war he launched on a a peaceful neighbour.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Nemo, the only reason he still has an airforce is because they spend less time in the air over Ukraine than russian tank turrets!

Well said!

8 ( +11 / -3 )

@ Nemo

At this point, Russia can be likened to a runaway train.

They will keep escalating things until they either get what they want, or Putin and his fellow revanchists, or they do not get what they want and out of spite they light the world up.

My money is on the last.

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

Anyone who has visited Crimea will be able to tell you that Crimea is very Russian. That it got a huge majority is not surprising. 97% may be a little exaggerated but not by much.

If they don’t like living under Ukrainian governance, they have Russian passports and are free to leave. The land belongs to Ukraine.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

*revanchists are removed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My money is on Russians deciding they’ve had enough of “winning”’and inviting mini-me to “retire.”

If he takes his head with him or not is up for debate.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Sham just like the Crimean referendum was. Pretty transparent ploy to be able to send conscripts.

And, as mentioned in the article, Russia doesn’t even fully control these areas, much of the pre-war population has fled, and already evidence of heavy-handed tactics to generate turn out for the photo ops (their actual vote isn’t even necessary of course).

7 ( +10 / -3 )

97% may be a little exaggerated but not by much.

I think you have exaggerated a lot.

when you have soldiers pointing machine guns at you while you are voting is not exactly a ‘fair election’ is it.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

@ Nemo

My money is on Russians deciding they’ve had enough of “winning”’and inviting mini-me to “retire.”

If he takes his head with him or not is up for debate.

That would be nice, but have we seen any evidence of this happening? Who would replace him? Another Russian supremacist, one supposes.

Putin is not a one man band; the whole elite are going walls-deep with him, and the Chinese and Indians seem to have given him the nod, too.

Putin would not be escalating if his support base genuinely disapproved.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

The ‘real’ Russians in Crimea who ‘really’ voted to join Russia are now being rounded up & being forcibly conscripted to join the Russian army.

So the laugh is now on them.

Also, I wonder if the people voting in this sham referendum know that if they do join Russia, they may then be the target of a Russian nuclear attack.

Im sure that is not on the voting form.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Thanks for ensuring the people of Donbass, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson can have a democratic choice. 

This is idiotic.

The only expression of “democratic choice” visible in Russia today is its young men voting with their feet and swamping border crossings trying to escape that fascist hellhole.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Bungle,

My point being that both Ukraine and it’s Western Allie’s are not going to be intimidated.

Russia’s conventional forces couldn’t organize a trip to McDonalds much less subdue these areas.

And Nuclear escalation will result in the strategic defeat of Russia.

When faced with that, they’ll get rid of mini-me (I hope).

He may not be a one-man band, but he is the face of either victory or defeat.

So the next guy can blame him and back down more easily than the midget from Moscow.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Not exaggerated at all. Almost everyone who was against it knew 90%+ would choose to join Russia so they refused to vote.

Fair enough, but this land belongs to Ukraine. If they don’t like it/can’t tolerate it, they can leave. They all have Russian passports. Go live in Russia.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The line of cars at the border to leave Russia is now at least 12 hours in length representing several miles.

I bet there are a lot of Russian mothers that will say “Enough! No more!”

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@ Nemo

Putin nice remarked that a world without a Russia is not a world worth having. Or something very similar.

Such is the mark of the man’s narcissism.

I honestly believe he doesn’t give a flying ~ if the whole world burns.

The solution has to come from within Russia, but as I said, I cannot see it happening.

I hope I am wrong. :-(

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

If Western powers didn't openly support the ultra right coup in 2014, this wouldn't have happened.

Still just a fake narrative. Amazingly, it seems Russia may have even believed its own fake narrative; explains why they were so shocked when Ukrainians actually fought back and didn’t welcome Russians as liberators; why Russia was only prepared for a few days war.

As we all know, the real reason is that Putin couldn’t abide a democratizing, west leaning Ukraine on its border. That would threaten his own authoritarian rule.

Moral of the story - it’s dangerous to believe your own gaslighting. Hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have paid the price for that.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Thanks for ensuring the people of Donbass, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson can have a democratic choice. 

yes, you can’t beat a democratic election at the barrel of a gun - it’s the Russian way.

Anyone who has visited Crimea will be able to tell you that Crimea is very Russian.

coming from a person who has never visited Crimea

surprising. 97% 

knew 90%+

unsurprisingly, 97% of people knew the result before the voting began.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I wonder what the Vegas odds are on this fair and free vote.

Eric, you are certainly very optimistic. I think if you check social media or satellite imagery of the traffic at the borders you can find the real situation.

Really? I haven't seen that video. I've seen Finnish, Georgian and Kazakh officials deny any unusual increase in traffic at the border.

I've seen the videos of young guys flooding the enlistment centers.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Biggest fraud of a "vote" since Hitler pulled the same stunt.

Fascist Russia is heading for annihilation if they keep this up. Hope the cowards are producing enough body bags.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Putin nice remarked that a world without a Russia is not a world worth having. Or something very similar.

I’ve heard this one and it is indeed worrisome.

But I bet that if faced with a choice of no Russia no world, or World, Russia, no Putin a lot of Russians would take the latter.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

USAmericans being critical of Russia's involvements in elections should look at what Trump and his Republicans have been doing in the US in their ongoing attempts to try to undermine US elections and the democratic foundations of the republic.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/5/3/republican-party-is-waging-a-nationwide-assault-on-voting-rights

4 ( +5 / -1 )

And of course China.

This is the same China that won’t sell Russia it’s own knock-offs of Russia’s crap weapons?

Some friend.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Really? I haven't seen that video. 

Of course you haven’t, its so easy to not watch what you don’t want to see.

I've seen the videos of young guys flooding the enlistment centers.

Every single one of them facing a decade in prison if they don’t,

Here is the thing. A lot of people, like a large % of the polulation in neighboring countries like Russia a lot.

Here is the other thing: a much larger % of the population of those countries hate Russia. They’ve lived under Russian rule and despised it. They see what Russia is doing to Ukraine and know they can’t trust Russia.

They don't care one iota about yours or MSMs hysterical ranting.

Nor do they care one iota for your delusional BS,

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Putinocchio knows very well how fast and far fake news and the "Big Lie" can travel in Russia, too, and he's evidently in a big hurry to get the annexation done before reality and the truth catch up in the form of the Ukrainian army. The "moment of truth" for the little thug will only come when he finally realizes that he can't fool all of the people all of the time: after the horrors of WW2 the Russians still suffer from a strong allergy to war are already voting with their feet.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Vote early and often,like they say in Chicago,

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

Putin has already decided on victory or nuclear war. NATO cannot accept surrender to Russia. We’re all dead before the New Year, barring someone in Russia killing him.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Stalin quote - “it’s not the voters who decide an election, it’s the counters”

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The 50,000 or so Russian soldiers left in Ukraine are eating freeze dried rations from 1994. How the heck is Putin going to feed a million recruits? What will they wear? If anything?

In other news, there is a referendum tonight deciding on whether the city of St. Petersburg should be annexed by my cat. Polling stations are currently open in my basement. I'll announce the results as soon as all the votes have been counted.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

@Avenger

put me down for a ‘da’

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Jansob1,

Putin has already decided on victory or nuclear war. NATO cannot accept surrender to Russia. We’re all dead before the New Year, barring someone in Russia killing him.

I understand (and to some extent share) your fears.

But might I propose the following:

Your supposition rests on 2 assumptions; That the Russians don’t know that they’re dead too and if they do know it, that they’re ok with that.

I would submit that neither of those are true.

While State Tv (any channel that’s still on the air) has huffed and puffed nightly on nuclear escalation, they also admit it’s the death of all of them.

Furthermore, I don’t think the average Ivan on the street is ok with going back to the 1500’s from a standard of living perspective.

I would submit that push comes to shove, no nukes either because Mini-me has blinked or he has been removed.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Nemo,

Your supposition rests on 2 assumptions; That the Russians don’t know that they’re dead too and if they do know it, that they’re ok with that.

At this juncture, Putin = Russia and Russia = Putin. The opinions of the man on the Moscow omnibus matter not a jot.

If Putin is okay with a nuclear exchange, then Russians are okay with a nuclear exchange, too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Russian state TV has boasted that families of soldiers killed in Ukraine can buy a brand new Lada car with the compensation in a bid to boost its conscript numbers.

Kremlin-backed Rossiya 1 showed how one set of parents decided to splash out with the 'coffin money' on a white saloon car from the state-run manufacturers.

Alexei Malov, 31, died in February just three days into the invasion but his mother and father have now received the compensation, with the Kremlin offering up to £105,000 for each dead soldier.

Malov's father then said: 'In memory of our son we bought a nice new car.'

aww !

8 ( +8 / -0 )

This is Putin's out. Regardless of the outcome of said "election", he'll say Russia won and the four areas are now part of Russia. He'll claim victory in the war and pull back forces, saying getting this areas was the key point and that as such it was all justified, and then he'll threaten nuclear attacks if anyone dares try to attack "Russia's sovereign territory", as they reserve the right to use nukes as defense of the motherland. The West will cringe, but ultimately try to push Ukraine to grudgingly accept, which Ukraine should never do.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Bungle,

At this juncture, Putin = Russia and Russia = Putin. The opinions of the man on the Moscow omnibus matter not a jot.

I think Putin thinks this. SOME portion of his population thinks this. I know he would like us all to believe that all Russians think this.

I don’t subscribe to it.

I think considering that the war is now something average Russians have to take into account and the videos that Eric can’t seem to find showing miles and miles of Russians voting with their cars and planes, Putin is not in fact Russia and Russia is not Outin.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yes, "Russia's sovereign territory", European states will have to finally pick a side, either stand firm or appease and capitulate.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

rainydayToday  04:50 pm JST

Its going to be all the more humiliating for Putin as he watches the Ukrainians get these territories back.

Agree. But Putin will call any attacks on those areas by Ukraine as an "attack on Russia" and increase domestic support for the war at the best, and threaten or actually use tactical nukes because "Russia is being attacked" at worst. The West really needs to stop playing his game and start driving some fear into him to end this war.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

A total sham being orchestrated by the good folks who have rigged Russian elections since Putin gained power. Now holding refferendums in Ukraine territories where Ukrainians have been chased out or shipped off to Russian "camps" thousands of KM away and the only ones left are the few pro Russian residents and all those Russian workers rushed into the area to increase numbers.

Zero validity in any of these Russian rigged "referendums" being voted on by Russians and not the Ukrainians who lived there until Putin's war began.

The UN will not recognize any change in status for these area's of Ukraine and nor will the world with possible exceptions being one or two Russian client states. Even China will not recognize the result as doing so could jeopardize it's claims of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Russian resources would be better spent withdrawing their troops from Ukraine while they are still alive.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Nothing says “free and fair” like the occupying army showing up armed at your house to ask you how you’d like to vote: Holes in head or Russia?

“Can I have a second to consider my options?” Said nobody ever.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Democracy.

A democratic state under the Rule of Law is a state where citizens elect their own leaders, and the government itself is bound by the law, while also helping to ensure that the law is respected among the citizens of the state .

This does not exist, it is a anathema in Putin's Russia, Its people are a aside show, a number to be rubbed out at will.

Arrested tortured and imprisoned without trail.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

When this is over, the Russians have had their sham votes and the regions have been returned to Ukraine, when - not if - the Moscow Midget has been thoroughly humiliated, I’m going to have fun reminding several of his, um… “supporters” just how wrong they were.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Or forced sent to War.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Why re you so people so upset about this? The local people like Russia. Deal with it.

-13 ( +0 / -13 )

The local people like Russia. Deal with it.

Fair enough. Let them move there. This land is Ukraine and will be so again.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Why re you so people so upset about this? The local people like Russia. Deal with it.

I don’t think the dead people like them too much. But I’ll admit there’s no way to be sure now.

The people who came out to greet the liberating army seemed not to like the Russians very much at all. Said they lived like pigs, stole a lot and killed people when they were drunk which was quite a bit of the time.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Voting began on Friday in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine

And populated by Russian part of Ukraine.

Big day for them.

Big day for all Russian people

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

Illegal land grab by Putin.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Big day for all Russian people

I know! There are thousands fleeing the country!

And they get to watch the midget of Moscow fall on his face.

As for the sham “election”, yeah, not so much.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."

Very simple - here we have national question.

Russian and Ukrainian - it's like Serbs and Croats.

In Ukraine Russian were second sort people.

So most of them want back to Russia

And vote areas with Russian population.

Ukraine just failed state today

-15 ( +1 / -16 )

Um, no. No it’s not.

Ukraine is a vibrant state who’s borders recognized by the UN, to which mini-me’s Russia is a founding member, includes the Donbas and Crimea.

So sorry, but you are wrong and in the end your opinion is irrelevant as the Army of this “failed” state is kicking your army’s ass up one side and down the other.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Couple of days ago Putin was talking about the rule of international law…. and here he is… again.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

For any referendum to be legal it must be conducted by Ukraine, not the nation hoping to steal the territories. Without Ukraine involvement no "vote" can be accepted as valid, and the assumption must be that all have been coerced by Russia for Russian purposes. As was the case in Crimea.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Big day for all Russian people

No ! most Russian people , especially the men, are more worried about how to avoid conscription.

top two google searches currently are - ‘how to get out of Russia’ & ‘how to break an arm’

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Ukraine is a vibrant state who’s borders recognized by the UN

Like Serbia?

By the way - Ukraine has not even start border demarcation process after USSR collapse

-15 ( +1 / -16 )

Da

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Peter14,victim of their own corruption,adult accept responsibility for their failures

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

what Ukraine will do for itself,

They are fighting, & winning !

i know it’s not what you want to hear

7 ( +8 / -1 )

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