Ukrainian Officials Describe ‘Coercion’ Tactics Of ‘Fake’ Referendums
Ukrainian officials in occupied parts of the country on Friday accused pro-Russian forces of using coercive tactics in secession referendums, which Western leaders have called a “farce.”
Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, said on Telegram that “the main means of coercion to vote is door-to-door polling.”
“The commission is made up of two people with a ballot box and ballot papers, and two armed men,” he said.
“They knock on the doors of apartments/houses, they force neighbors to make people come to the commission. Coercion, coercion and more coercion. In fact, they offer to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ directly to the barrel of a gun “.
Mariupol is in Donetsk, one of four Ukrainian regions — occupied to a greater or lesser extent by Russian and pro-Russian forces — where Russian-backed leaders are holding what Ukraine and Western governments have denounced as bogus referendums on membership. the Russian Federation.
Andriushchenko is not in the city, but he has been a reliable conduit for information from Mariupol. CNN cannot independently verify his characterizations or those of others.
“Polling stations are located in shops and cafes,” Andriushchenko said. “However, they are empty. There are no usual services there, like voting booths. The marking is done under the close supervision of armed people. This is what Russian democracy is like.”
Yurii Sobolevskyi, deputy head of the Kherson Regional Council, told CNN that the ongoing effort in his region has seen very little participation.
“Most people are determined not to go,” he said. “That’s why this door-to-door idea came about, because when armed people come to your house, it will be difficult and dangerous to even refuse to vote.”
He said the United Russia political party — the ruling party in Russia — has been campaigning for secession, while also handing out food parcels to residents.
He said the population of the occupied city of Kherson has halved since the Russian invasion. Those who remain, he said, lean toward the elders.
The exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol — which is in the Russian-occupied region of Zaporizhia — also urged residents to boycott the vote.
Ivan Fedorov said on Telegram that participating was “taking part of the responsibility for war crimes in Bucha, Borodianka, Mariupol, Izium, etc.”
“Participation in a pseudo-referendum is the worst betrayal,” he said. “To yourself, to your family, to all Ukrainians, to your country!”