Ukraine war: Voting in separatist regions to join Russia continues despite shelling

Kherson, Ukraine - Voting in internationally criticized referendums for four Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories to become part of Russia continued for a third day on Sunday despite shelling by Ukrainian forces.

A local election official carries ballots past a damaged residential building in Mariupol.
A local election official carries ballots past a damaged residential building in Mariupol.  © REUTERS

According to the pro-Russian authorities, two people died in a hotel near Kherson in a missile attack.

In the city of Alchevsk in the Luhansk region, authorities said voting could take place in bomb shelters.

Meanwhile, in the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, a polling station had to be moved to another location due to massive shelling from the Ukrainian side, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

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The hastily convened polls were taking place in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Neither Ukraine nor the international community recognize the vote under Russia as the occupying power. They are not considered to be legitimate referendums because they are being held without the permission of Ukrainian authorities, under martial law and not according to democratic principles.

The voting is scheduled to run until Tuesday, with the population asked to vote "yes" or "no" on whether the territories should join the Russian Federation.

More sanctions on Russia expected

A pro-Russian service member sits next to a mobile ballot box set up in Mariupol.
A pro-Russian service member sits next to a mobile ballot box set up in Mariupol.  © REUTERS

A positive result for the Kremlin, seen as a foregone conclusion, could see Russian President Vladimir Putin annexing the regions as early as Friday.

Putin has previously said that Moscow would then consider Ukrainian attacks on the regions as an aggression on Russian territory, and would use all means to defend it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the G7 group of leading industrialized democracies have described the referendums as a "sham." Videos and testimonials posted on social media also appear to show cases of coercion by armed soldiers.

Western countries, meanwhile, are preparing a new package of sanctions in response to the possible annexation. In 2014, Russia already annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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