Referendums Begin In Russian-Occupied Regions Of Ukraine – Referendums in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk began on Friday as Russia pushes ahead with plans to legitimize the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state news outlet Tass described how the votes will take place between September 23 and 27, and wrongly described Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as “Liberated territories.”
The outlet described how the public chambers of the self-styled Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk filed formal requests to the leaders of the “republics” to begin the referendums, and that local legislatures “unanimously passed referendum laws.”
How the Votes Will Work
Owing to time constraints, the referendums will not use digital voting and only traditional paper ballots will be used. In-person voting will take place only on September 27, while on other days, the vote will be conducted door-to-door.
It will involve soldiers knocking on the doors of civilians’ homes – the homes that haven’t already been destroyed by war – and collecting votes from the occupants. The move was described as a measure to ensure “security” in the election.
The ballots will ask residents of Donetsk and Luhansk whether they “support their republic’s accession to Russia as a federal subject.” Residents in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will be asked whether they “favor the region’s secession from Ukraine, creation of an independent country and subsequent accession to Russia as a federal subject.”
The vote reflects the initial goal of the Russian president – the “liberation” of these territories and recognition as independent states. The questions also represent an evolution of Putin’s intentions, having first not explicitly stated that he intended to absorb the territories into the Russian Federation, even if the world expected that was his goal from the start.
There will be roughly 450 polling stations established across Donetsk, and a further 200 established for those who have been evacuated to Russia.
In Luhansk, there will be 461 polling stations that people can attend on September 27, and a total of 201 other polling stations throughout Russia for those who have evacuated.
There will also be 394 polling stations in Zaporizhzhia, and 58 In Russia for residents who have fled the region already.
It’s clear that Russia not only intends to allow those who remain in the occupied regions of Ukraine to vote, but also those who have signaled their support for Russia by evacuating for safer territory within the Russian Federation.
That same level of attention has not, however, been paid to those who have left the region for safer territory in western or central Ukraine, or even in Western Europe. It means that the results of the referendums in Ukraine will almost certainly turn out in Putin’s favor, with millions of Ukrainian citizens already living in safe countries in the West left completely unable to cast their vote. Many of those individuals may also choose not to vote, recognizing the elections as illegitimate.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.