Ukraine’s presidential adviser warned that those who supported the referendum vote on Russia’s annexation would face prison sentences for treason.
“We have a list of people involved,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak in an interview published by the newspaper. Blick of Switzerland posted on September 27. “We are talking about hundreds of collaborators. They will be prosecuted for treason and face at least five years in prison.”
Mr Podolyak said Ukrainians “forced to vote will not be punished”. Ukrainian officials allege that ballot boxes were sent door-to-door and that “people were coerced to vote in front of Russian-backed security forces”.
Russia has not commented on the information of the Ukrainian presidential adviser.
Russian-appointed officials in the Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia provinces, which account for about 15% of Ukraine’s area, held a referendum on annexation to Russia on September 23-27. If there are enough votes in favor, the Russian parliament can approve the merger process in the next few days.
The British Ministry of Defense said that President Vladimir Putin may announce the annexation of Ukrainian territories in his speech to parliament on September 30. Meanwhile, Ukraine and the West accused the referendum of being “staged” and said it would not recognize the result.
The separatists in Donetsk reported 86.89% of the voter turnout, compared with 83.61%, 66.43% and 63.58% in the Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson provinces, respectively.
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.
Before the referendums began, the pro-Russian government in Kherson said 750,000 people voted. Zaporizhzhia also gives similar numbers. Donetsk says it printed 1.5 million votes.
Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said on September 25 that more than 100 international observers from 40 countries were involved in monitoring the referendums in four regions of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that annexation to Russia was a matter for the people of Ukraine’s provinces to decide for themselves.
More than eight years ago, the Crimean government on March 16, 2014 held a referendum and then announced that 97% of voters agreed to secede from Ukraine to join Russia. The merger agreement was signed with Russia on March 18, 2014, three days later the Russian lower house passed a law to realize this agreement.
Nguyen Tien (Theo Reuters, TASS)