FSJ News Updates,
Voting has begun in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine in so-called referendums to become part of Russia, as Ukrainian and UN officials reported evidence of war crimes during the country’s nearly seven-month war.
The Kremlin-led referendum, which has been widely condemned by Ukraine and the West as a fraud without any legal force, is seen as a step towards annexation of the territory by Russia.
Voting is taking place in Luhansk, Kherson and partially Russian-controlled Zaporozhye and Donetsk regions.
The governor of Kharkiv region, which was mostly held by Russian forces before a Ukrainian counter-offensive this month, announced on Friday that 436 bodies, 30 with visible markings, had been exhumed from a mass grave in the eastern city of Izium. torture.
Governor Oleh Synyehubov and the region’s police chief Volodymyr Tymoshko told reporters in Izio that there were three more grave sites in areas recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
A team of experts mandated by the UN Human Rights Council also presented evidence on Friday of crimes including beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention facilities, as well as executions in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.
But the chairman of the commission did not specify who or which side in the war committed most of the alleged crimes.
The referendum vote follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for a partial mobilization of reservists, which could add about 300,000 Russian troops to the fight. Voting will continue for five days until Tuesday.
Referendums asking residents whether they want their regions to be part of Russia are sure to come off as Moscow. This would give Russia a pretext to claim that Ukrainian forces’ attempts to regain control are attacks on Russia itself, dramatically escalating the war.
As voting took place in the occupied territories, Russian social media was filled with dramatic scenes of tearful families saying goodbye to men leaving military mobilization centers.
In cities across the vast country, men hugged their weeping family members before leaving for the draft. Meanwhile, Russian anti-war activists planned further protests against the mobilization.
Election officials will bring ballots to people’s homes and set up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings during the first four days of the referendum, Russian-installed officials in the occupied territories said, citing security reasons. Tuesday will be the only day voters will be invited to come out for regular elections.
Polling stations have also opened in Russia, where refugees from the occupied territories can vote.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of separatists in the Moscow-backed Donetsk region, called Friday’s referendum a “historic milestone”.
Latest Defense Intelligence Update on the situation in Ukraine – September 23, 2022
Read more about the UK Government’s response: https://t.co/Bot9jAVNWg
— Ministry of Defense 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 23, 2022
Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, addressed the occupied regions in an online statement on Friday, saying: “If you decide to become part of the Russian Federation, we will support you.
Valentina Matvijenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said that residents of the occupied territories voted for “life or death” in the referendums.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy only briefly mentioned the “fake referendum” in his overnight speech, in which he switched from speaking Ukrainian to Russian to directly tell Russian citizens they were “thrown to death”.
“You are already complicit in all these crimes, murders and tortures of Ukrainians,” he said. “Because you were silent. Because you are silent. And now it’s time for you to choose.
“For a man in Russia, it is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to keep healthy. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or to keep trying to protect them from death, from war, from one person.”
The vote comes against a backdrop of ongoing fighting in Ukraine, with Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanging fire as both sides refuse to back down.
Ukraine’s presidential office said on Friday that at least 10 civilians had been killed and 39 others wounded by Russian shelling in nine Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours.
It said fighting in Russian-held southern Kherson continued despite the vote, while Ukrainian troops launched 280 attacks on Russian command posts, ammunition depots and weapons in the region.