Voters in four Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories will vote on their desire to join from today, in a two-stage process.
The two breakaway regions of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in the Donbass region, and the Russian military-controlled areas of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, will hold the referendums. on the desire to annex the territory to Russia from September 23 to September 27.
Voting is divided into two phases, according to announcements from pro-Russian officials in these localities. In-person voting at the collection points will take place on September 27. For the preceding four days, ballots will be collected by locality, with elections officials knocking on doors. Pro-Russian officials say the measure is to ensure security.
Donetsk set up about 450 polling stations in the province. Russia will support the opening of an additional 200 polling stations in the territory for those who have been evacuated to the country. Lugansk has 461 polling stations in the region and 201 in Russia.
Pro-Russian officials opened 394 polling stations across Zaporizhzhia province, although the Russian military did not actually control the province completely. In addition, Russia and the pro-Russian authorities in Donetsk, Kherson and Lugansk supported the opening of 58 polling stations for voters in the evacuated Zaporizhzhia province.
Voters in Kherson province can go to Crimea or other Russian cities to vote. There are 206 polling stations in Kherson alone.
In Donetsk, separatist authorities printed more than 1.5 million ballots based on a database of residents of voting age. Galina Katyushchenko, chairwoman of the Zaporizhzhia Provincial Election Commission, said the area is estimated to have around 500,000 voters. The pro-Russian government in Kherson estimates about 750,000 people will take part in the referendum. Russian officials conducted a survey last week and said that the percentage of people in the four regions who participated in the vote would all be over 70%.
Votes in Donetsk and Lugansk were printed in Russian because separatist authorities have since 2020 designated Russian as the main language for the two self-proclaimed “republics”. Russian-controlled regions in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces will print Russian-Ukrainian bilingual ballots.
The separatists in the Russian-controlled region of the four regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are all “committed to maximum transparency and legitimacy” and are ready to receive international observers.
Yelena Kravchenko, Lugansk’s election official, said on September 21 that the application had been received by several foreign observers and was being reviewed. She did not disclose which country they were from. Donetsk and Kherson made similar statements and have yet to disclose information about foreign observers.
Russia pledged to send observers to the four breakaway regions to help monitor the referendum. Members of the Russian parliament will also receive invitations.
Security was tightened in four breakaway regions during the referendum period because they feared ambushes from the Ukrainian army. Officials in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia said local police and Russian military personnel would be present at polling stations.
Entrances to cities in Zaporizhzhia, an area controlled by Russia, will be blocked during the days of the referendum. Voter collection teams will go from house to house, accompanied by police. Meanwhile, the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk will mobilize their armed forces and ask the Russian military for assistance in ensuring security.
After the separatist authorities in the four regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia announced on September 20 that they would hold a referendum on the annexation of Russia, the Ukrainian government immediately criticized these referendums as referendums. staged.
Kiev stressed that this development would not change national sovereignty and that the military “has every right to liberate territories and will continue to do so”. Ukraine also believes that the referendums will destroy the chances of peace talks with Russia.
Western countries, including the US, as well as the NATO military alliance, vehemently criticized the plan and said they would not recognize the results. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that “fake referendums are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that are the foundation of the international system”.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the prospect of joining Russia was a matter for the people of the Ukrainian provinces to decide for themselves. Many senior Russian officials have expressed support for this operation.
Russia controls most of Lugansk, Kherson, 73% of Zaporizhzhia and 60% of Donetsk. As of January, about 1.4 million people live in Lugansk, 2.2 million in Donetsk, more than a million in Kherson and 1.6 million in Zaporizhzhia. After the war broke out, many people evacuated to other parts of the country and abroad.
Name (Theo TASS)