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Kremlin-Controlled Territories Of Ukraine Begin Vote On Russian Annexation That West Calls ‘Sham’.

Four Kremlin-controlled territories of Ukraine are today launching referendums on joining Russia that contradict international law and the UN charter as President Vladimir Putin doubles down on his botched invasion of Ukraine.
Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions will hold the snap votes on September 23-27 in the midst of the largest war in Europe in decades -- one that has forced many of the would-be voters to flee. The Kremlin-installed leaders of the four regions announced on September 20 without any warning that they plan to hold the vote on annexation starting this week. Ukraine and Western nations have said they would not recognize them as legitimate. The rushed decision to hold the vote comes as Ukraine’s military is routing Russian forces in those regions, liberating large swaths of territory and raising the real spector of a Russian defeat. Western officials and experts say Putin plans to use the sham vote to claim Ukraine is invading Russian territory and threaten the use of nuclear weapons to defend itself -- an attempt to frighten Kyiv and its Western backers from further military action. Putin days earlier said that he would use all weapons systems available to him in response to a threat to Russia’s territorial integrity. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on September 22 called on members of the UN Security Council to “send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately.” He called Russia's effort to annex more Ukrainian territory “another dangerous escalation as well as a repudiation of diplomacy.”

Voting Process
The Kremlin has carried out a series of acts in the Ukrainian territories under its control that raise deep skepticism about any legitimacy the votes could have.

Moscow for years has been handing out Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Since the start of the invasion in February, the Kremlin has deported about 1.6 million Ukrainian refugee to Russia, according to Western estimates, while also busing Russian citizens into Ukrainian territory, moves Blinken called "diabolical." Russia has also captured personal and biometric data of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens at so-called "filtration camps" set up after the launch of its invasion, opening the door, experts say, to ballot manipulation. Ukrainians from those four regions residing in Russia will be allowed to vote. Nikolai Bulayev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission, said he expects “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainians currently in Russia to take part in the referendum. Russia has little history of holding free and fair elections, with ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, outright fraud, and media manipulation common practices. There is no single database containing information about the number of polling stations that will open in Russia for Ukrainian citizens nor uniform rules for how the voting will be conducted in the country, daily Kommersant reported.
In many regions of Russia, voting during the first four days will take place at home – a format wide open to intimidation and manipulation– while polling stations will be made available only on the last day. Several regions of Russia will not publicly disclose the location of polling stations, claiming unspecified concerns over security. Blinken called on every member of the United Nations to “reject the sham referenda and unequivocally declare that all Ukrainian territory is and will remain part of Ukraine.” He said the United States will continue to support Ukraine regardless of the vote.

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