Completing seven months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pro-Russian authorities started the second day of referendums in the territories of Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, partially controlled by the Russians.
A public consultation continues until next Tuesday (27) and the West is counting on manipulation by the Kremlin so that the results are favorable to the annexation of the territories. This would give Russia the pretext to claim that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are attacks on the country, resulting in an escalation of the war, especially after President Vladimir Putin’s latest threats about the use of nuclear weapons.
“There is a wish that these referendums go as unnoticed as possible, so that manipulation can be carried out comfortably”, Anna Colin Lebedev, an expert on post-Soviet societies, tells the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The United States and Ukraine condemn the votes imposed by the Russians, considering them as “farces without legal power”.
“A quick pseudo-referendum in apartments and courtyards under the eyes alert of an armed soldier,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Lugansk region, wrote on Twitter.
Instead of going to polling stations, citizens in some areas are voting from home, “for reasons security,” according to pro-Moscow officials.
Haidai said he had reports have been received from people living in the occupied territories that itinerant electoral committees were accompanied by armed individuals.
“If they do not open the door of the house, they threaten to break it down,” he said, adding that when a person marks “no” (to accession to Russia) on the ballot, committee members record this information in their “notebook”.
Furthermore, according to Haidai, people are informed of that they can vote even without presenting identity documents, as the committee tells them that they “already know who they are”.
An aide to the mayor of Mariupol stated that some polling stations in the coastal city were installed “in shops and cafes” and that there are no conditions for a secret vote, given the lack of booths.
“You mark the ballot under the close supervision of people with automatic weapons. This is Russian democracy,” adviser Petro Andriushchenko wrote on his Telegram account.
Russian demonstration and flight after mobilization
Meanwhile, in the neighboring country, Russian reservists called up to reinforce the war try to flee Russia. On Wednesday (21), President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 70 a thousand reservists to fight in the conflict.
Since then, several have tried to flee to other countries, by car or plane, and Belarus, despite its proximity to the Kremlin (it allowed its territory to be used to invade northern Ukraine at the beginning of the war), is a potential escape route because there are no border controls between the two countries. However, Belarusian security forces began a pursuit of Russians who eventually fled to the country.
Large lines of cars also built up at the borders with other neighboring countries, such as Finland and Georgia.
Many Russians are also trying to leave Russia by plane. According to Reuters, seats on all Turkish Airlines flights from Moscow to Istanbul (Turkey allows Russians to enter the country without a visa) have all been reserved until next Sunday.
demand has made ticket prices soar. According to a survey by aviation news website Simple Flying, on Wednesday, the cheapest tickets to Dubai were priced at more than 300 thousand rubles (almost R$
thousand), approximately five times the average monthly salary in Russia.
Flights to Turkey were costing 70 thousand rubles (R $ 6 thousand), while last week they were at just over 22 thousand rubles (R$ 1.9 thousand).
of this increase in demand, the Russian government has banned the sale of tickets to men aged between 18 and 65 years old, the unless they present authorization to travel issued by the Ministry of Defence.
On Thursday (22), the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said there is exaggeration of information about Russians trying to leave the country. “There is a lot of false information. You have to be careful not to fall victim to this false information”, said Peskov.
Big demonstrations against the mobilization of reservists were registered in at least 38 cities since Wednesday, in which about 1,300 people were arrested, according to figures released by an independent monitoring group. Other protests should take place this weekend.