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Russia plans sham referendum to formalize its occupation of Ukraine’s south

Anti-occupation rally in Russian-occupied Kherson on 13 March 2022. Source.
The Operative Command South of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that Russia intensified its preparations for a sham referendum in occupied Kherson oblast in Ukraine’s south to proclaim its “independence” from Ukraine. According to the Command, now the occupation forces have advanced the “date imitation of the will of the people.”

Ukrainian reports on the Russian intentions to declare the so-called “Kherson people’s republic” circulate from the first weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

On 16 April, The Ukrainian parliament’s Ombudsperson Lyudmyla Denisova wrote on Facebook that Russia plans to hold its pseudo referendum in Kherson Oblast for several days, from May 1 to 10, intending “to close Kherson for entry and exit, and disconnect all communications” for this period.

According to her, the Kherson fake voting is going to the carbon copy of the sham referendums that Russia had carried out in Luhansk and Donetsk back in 2014, “when instead of any expression of the people’s power, there was only a picture created for Russian television.”

Denisova reported referring to witness accounts that the occupation authorities were printing “ballots” for the “referendum” in a printing house in Nova Kakhovka, an occupied city in Kherson Oblast lying not far from Crimea’s north.

“Obviously, all protocols of the ‘vote’s’ results will be prepared in advance and delivered to the regional capital,” the Ombudsperson wrote.

The Ukraine army’s General Staff also added,

“To falsify its results, it is planned to use personal data of residents of the region, which are collected by the russian occupiers during the issuance of so-called ‘humanitarian aid.’ Residents are also spreading information that after the announcement of the results of the pseudo-referendum, their ‘mobilization’ into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will begin.”

Meanwhile, the Operative Command South noted in their report that mentioned that Russia advanced the “vote” to an earlier date,

“Trying to speed up the legalization of the occupying power, [the invaders] as always ignore all laws and regulations. The fact that the referendum is scheduled for the middle of the week on a working day (27 April is Wednesday, – Ed.) further emphasizes that the invaders have no interest in the expression of the will of the local population, and the prepared scenario has a known result.”

The Command noted that the Russian occupation authorities advanced the “referendum’s” date to 27 April. However, later the General Staff reported an updated information where it said that the “vote” will be carried out on 1 May as Russia had planned before.

In their report issued on 21 April, the General Staff updated the information on the intentions of the Russian forces in Kherson Oblast:

“According to available information, in the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast, a so-called ‘referendum’ is planned for 1 May,  and ‘census’ for the period from May 2  to 10. Locals are prohibited from moving between settlements.”

Also, the Staff said, the self-proclaimed occupation authorities announced the mobilization of male civilians among the residents of Kherson Oblast.

The Russian troops occupied Kherson Oblast in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but instead of the warm welcome that they expected they faced mass anti-occupation protests. The local residents staged pro-Ukrainian protests for more than a month until the Russian occupation authorities managed to harshly suppress most of publicly demonstrated dissent in the region in early April.

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