Russia-staged ‘referendums’ start in seized Ukrainian areas

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Russia-staged 'referendums' start in seized Ukrainian areas

So-called referendums announced earlier this week on whether Russia-occupied Ukrainian regions should formally be annexed by Russia got underway on Friday, reported DW, quoting news agencies AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa and EFE.

Polls were organized in Russia-occupied areas of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine's east and southeast amid the backdrop of the ongoing fighting.

In a video posted on his Telegram channel, separatist leader Denis Pushilin from the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" called the annexation votes "decisive" and a "breakthrough into a new reality."

The Kremlin-orchestrated ballots, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as a "sham," are set to take place over 5 days until Tuesday.

Russian news agencies reported that turnout on the first day varied between 15% and 24% depending on the region: 15% in Kherson, 20% in Zaporizhzhia, 22% in Luhansk, and 24% in Donetsk.

People living in the occupied areas are being asked if they want their regions to be part of Russia. The outcome is almost certain to go Moscow's way, and would give Russia the pretext to claim that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are attacks on Russia itself.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow intends to quickly incorporate the occupied regions into the Russian Federation, pending the outcome of the vote, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Asked how long the recognition process would take, Peskov said he was "convinced that it will be quick enough."

The so-called referendums follow President Vladimir Putin's order of a partial military mobilization, which could add as many as 300,000 Russian conscripts to the fight in Ukraine.

Biden vows 'severe' costs if Russia annexes Ukraine regions
US President Joe Biden warned Russia there will be "swift and severe" costs if Moscow uses "sham" referendums to annex more of Ukraine.

"Russia's referenda are a sham — a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law," Biden said in a statement. "We will work with our allies and partners to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia."

According to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the United States is prepared to level additional economic penalties on Russia, in lockstep with allies, if Moscow attempts to annex more Ukraine territory.

Zelenskyy urges world to condemn 'pseudo-referendums'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the world would condemn the "pseudo-referendums" organized in Russian-held Ukrainian regions.

"The world will react absolutely justly to pseudo-referendums — they will be unequivocally condemned," Zelenskyy said in his daily address to the nation.

He also asked Ukrainians living on the temporarily occupied territory to hide from the Russian mobilization.

"But if you do end up in the Russian army, then sabotage any enemy activity… Do everything to preserve lives and help liberate Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

G7 will never recognize 'sham' referendums in Ukraine — statement
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) strongly condemned the so-called referendums in Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions.

According to the G7 statement, Russia is attempting to create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory.

"These actions clearly breach the United Nations Charter and international law and go diametrically against the rule of law among nations," the statement said.

The G7 added that the outcome of the referendums will have no legal effect or legitimacy.

"We will never recognize" these referendums which appear to be a "step toward Russian annexation" and we will never "recognize a purported annexation if it occurs," the statement added.

The G7 also called upon all countries to "unequivocally reject" these "sham" referendums as "Russia’s attempt to give false cover to its violations of international law."

The statement said that G7 is ready to impose further economic costs on Russia, as well as on individuals and entities providing political or economic support for Russia’s illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.

Meanwhile, the US also said it is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with allies if Moscow moves forward with Ukraine annexation.

Sham referendums a 'Russian trick,' says former Ukrainian president Poroshenko
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told DW that the so-called referendums were a "Russian trick" to legitimize the presence of Russian troops in occupied regions in Ukraine.

Poroshenko said the annexation vote was "definitely not" a referendum, adding it was impossible logistically to organize an actual referendum in such a short amount of time. The former president of Ukraine between 2014 and 2019, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was carrying out "nuclear attack blackmail."

He added that he is confident Ukraine's constitutional court will rule the referendum unconstitutional, just as was the case under his presidency, when Russia organized a vote on the annexation of Crimea.

EU's Michel calls for Russia to be suspended from UN Security Council
European Council President Charles Michel said that Russia should be suspended from the United Nations Security Council.

"When a permanent member of the Security Council launches an unprovoked and unjustifiable war, a war which is condemned by the General Assembly, that member's suspension from the Security Council, in my view, should be automatic," Michel said, referring to Russia's war on Ukraine.

"The use of the right to veto should be an exemption but it has become, we have seen it, the rule. A reform is needed and urgent," Michel said, addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN Security Council's five permanent members — China, the United States, France, Britain and Russia — have a right to veto resolutions.

Ukraine to strip Iranian ambassador of accreditation over drones
Ukraine, citing Russia's deployment of drones delivered by Iran, decided to strip Iranian ambassador of accreditation, as well as to significantly reduce the number of diplomatic personnel of the Iranian embassy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said that Iran's decision to supply arms to Russia contradicted Tehran's declared neutral position and was an unfriendly act that dealt a serious blow to bilateral ties.

According to Ukrainian officials, one civilian was killed on Friday during a Russian attack with Iranian-made drones on the southern port city of Odesa.

Ukraine's air defense also shot down several Iranian-made drones, including "Mohajer-6," the latter type for the first time since the conflict broke out, the Ukrainian military said in a statement.

No nuclear threat, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that Moscow was "not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons."

"The criteria for their use are outlined in Russia's military doctrine," he added.

Russian officials, including ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, have said if Ukrainian regions are annexed by Russia, any attack on them by Ukrainian forces would be considered an attack on Russia.

Under Russia's nuclear doctrine, this could permit the use of nuclear weapons if Moscow feels it faces as "existential threat."

However, Ryabkov said Russia was not seeking "open confrontation" with the United States or the NATO military alliance and did not want the situation to escalate further.

"We hope the Biden administration is also aware of the danger of an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine," he was quoted as saying by Russian media outlets.

Over 400 bodies found in Izium burial site
Ukrainian officials say 436 bodies have been exhumed from a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium, 30 of them with visible signs of torture, the governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Synyehubov, and the region's police chief, Volodymyr Tymoshko, told reporters in Izium on Friday.

The officials added that three more grave sites have been identified in areas retaken by Ukrainian forces in a counteroffensive that took place earlier this month.

Ukraine says it recaptures village in Donetsk region
Ukrainian forces said Friday that they had recaptured the village of Yatskivka in eastern Donetsk according to Oleksiy Gromov, a senior army official.

Yatskivka sits on the eastern bank of the strategic Oskil river, which Ukrainian troops crossed after recapturing swathes of territory in the neighboring Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian forces had also "regained control over positions to the south of Bakhmut," Gromov added.

Bakhmut, a key city with a pre-war population of 70,000 people, is also located in the Donetsk region and has been subject to Russian attacks for months.

Oleksii Makeiev appointed Ukraine's new ambassador to Germany
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed Oleksii Makeiev as Ukraine's new ambassador to Germany, succeeding Andriy Melnyk in the role. Makeiev worked as political director in the Foreign Ministry in Kyiv for many years.

Melnyk was recalled from his post in mid-July by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and is due to leave Germany on October 14 to take up a post in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Melnyk often criticized the German governmentfor its stance on Russia, even before Moscow's invasion began. Since then, he has repeatedly demanded more weapons from Germany to help Ukraine fight off Russian attacks.

Ukrainian saboteurs 'dealt with' in Zaporizhzhia, says Russian-installed administrator
The Russian-installed administrator of the Moscow-controlled part of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region said Friday that two cars with "Ukrainian saboteurs" had entered the area, the RIA Novosti and TASS news agencies reported.

The region has stepped up patrols on entry as part of measures surrounding the so-called referendum taking place in the region over whether it should join Russia.

US envoy: Russia forcibly deported up to 1.6 million Ukrainians
A US envoy said Friday that Russia has forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.

Ambassador Michele Taylor told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council: "We urge the commissioners to continue to examine the growing evidence of Russia's filtration operations, forced deportations and disappearances," referring to a commission of inquiry into Ukraine.

"Numerous sources indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcible deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens," she said.

UN: 'War crimes' committed in Ukraine
The United Nations said on Friday that its investigators have found evidence of "war crimes" in Ukraine following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Commission of Inquiry has so far focused its investigation on four regions: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv.

Belarus not to follow Russia in calling for mobilization
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who declared himself winner after a contested election in 2020, said on Friday that he was not planning on launching a mobilization following Russia's announcement calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists to be sent to Ukraine.

"The mobilization is in Russia," state media quoted Lukashenko. "There will be no mobilization."

"We will fight only when we have to defend our home, our land," he added.

Belarus, one of Russia's closest allies, also borders Ukraine and was used as a staging ground for Russian forces as well as for Russian missile launches.

Ericsson said it is providing only limited technical support in Russia
Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson said the company is only providing software and technical support to Russian clients. The company clarified its position and said it has not sold any equipment to mobile operators in Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ericsson was responding to speculation in Swedish media that suggested the telecommunications firm had continued to export equipment to Russia. Following the reports, shares in Ericsson dropped 4.6% in morning trading.

The Stockholm-based company suspended its business in Russia in April. In August it communicated that it would exit the country entirely in the coming months.

Finland notices continued increase in traffic as Russians flee mobilization orders
Finland said there continues to be an increase in traffic across its southeastern border with Russia, the border guard told news agency Reuters.

According to the guard, the number of Russians who entered Finland on Thursday had more than doubled in comparison with the previous week's tally for the same day.

Finland is considering blocking most Russians from entering as traffic arriving from its neighbor "intensified" on Thursday.

More Ukraine-related content on DW
Several government ministers have indicated that, under specific conditions, Germany is ready to take in Russians fleeing the "partial military mobilization." To read more about this, click here.

You can read more about Russia's motivation for holding the so-called referendums, in the regions of Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, by clicking here.

Russia-staged 'referendums' start in seized Ukrainian areas

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