Ukrainian officials in occupied areas of the country are on Friday accusing pro-Russian forces of using coercive tactics in referendums on secession, which Western leaders have described as a “farce”.
Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, told Telegram that “the main means of coercion to vote is door-to-door voting”.
“The commission is made up of two people with an urn and ballots and two armed men,” he said.
“They knock on apartment/house doors, force neighbors to make people come to the commission. Coercion, coercion and more coercion. In fact, they offer to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ directly into the barrel of a gun.”
Mariupol is in Donetsk, one of four Ukrainian regions — occupied to varying degrees by Russian and pro-Russian forces — where Russian-backed leaders are carrying out what Ukraine and Western governments have denounced as fake referendums on membership of the Russian Federation.
Andriushchenko is not in town, but he is a reliable channel for information from Mariupol. THE CNN could not independently verify his and other characterizations.
“Polling stations are located in shops and cafes,” Andriushchenko said. “However, they are empty. There are no usual amenities like voting booths. The mark is made under the supervision of armed people. This is what Russian democracy looks like.”
Yurii Sobolevskyi, deputy head of the Kherson Regional Council, told CNN that the effort made in their region had 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 distributing food parcels to residents.
He said the population of the occupied city of Kherson has been reduced by half since the invasion of Russia. Those who remain, he said, lean towards the elderly.
The exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol — which is in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region — also urged residents to boycott the vote.
Ivan Fedorov said on Telegram that participating was “assuming part of the responsibility for the war crimes in Bucha, Borodianka, Mariupol, Izium, etc.”
“Participation in a pseudo-referendum is the worst betrayal,” he said. “You, your family, all Ukrainians, your country!”
Source: CNN Brasil