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Russia declares 98% secession support rate in sham referendums in occupied regions
Russian leaders declare that nearly 100% of the people living in the occupied territories of Ukraine – Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson oblasts – voted to join Russia in sham referendums. The so-called vote at gunpoint has been declared null and void by all countries that commented on the issue.
According to the Russian news agency Interfax, citing Russia's Central Election Commission, the "preliminary results" showed that around 98% of those who "voted" in four occupied territories supported Russian annexation. Reports of people being forced to vote by Russian troops with guns have been documented.
During the "referendums," the Russian troops were checking residents' houses and writing down the names of locals who voted against the annexation, according to Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai. In Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Russian troops threatened people who voted against joining Russia with mobilization, Ukraine's Defense Ministry reported.
"There are Russian patrols on the streets handing out 'ballots' for the 'referendum,'" the Defense Ministry wrote on Sept. 27. "They point weapons at people, give them these 'ballots' and tell exactly which box to check."
Russian state-controlled news outlet RIA Novosti wrote that Russia might formally annex the occupied regions on Oct. 4.
Along with the mobilization, announced in Russia on Sept. 21, Russia boosted the conscription of Ukrainians in the occupied parts of Ukraine. Russian-installed proxy in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast Yevhen Balytskyi said on Sept. 26 that local "volunteers" would join the Russian army in its fight against Ukraine following the sham referendum.
Kyiv warned that the illegal annexation votes would not change Ukraine's counteroffensive plans and that there would be no peace talks in case these "referendums" take place. The G7 nations said on Sept. 22 that they would not recognize pseudo-referendums, assuring to hit back with more "targeted" sanctions on Russia.