“Russia’s referendums are a sham, a spurious pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force“, denounced Friday evening the American president.
Earlier, in a joint statement, the G7 countries (Germany, Canada, United States, France, Italy, Japan and United Kingdom) had called “all countries to unequivocally reject these mock referendums“, of the “simulacra” who “have neither legal effect nor legitimacy“.
On Friday evening, in his daily address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also denounced “pseudo-referendums“.
Without going so far as to denounce the polls, China, Moscow’s closest partner, nevertheless went there with its criticism, calling for respect for “the territorial integrity of all countries“.
Russia has started voting as part of its “referendums” to annex Ukrainian regions that it controls in whole or in part. The votes, which began Friday at 0500 GMT, will end on September 27 in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (east), and in areas Russian occupation in the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhya (south).
Hundreds of polling stations were to be opened in the four territories, and others in Russia to allow displaced people to vote.
In Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, the authorities organized demonstrations in support of the votes with great reinforcements of flags and slogans.
“These referendums are a step towards this peace“, said Viktor Souvorov, 40, present at the Moscow rally, a stone’s throw from Red Square.
In Ukraine, in Chevchenkové, the Ukrainian official Andriï Kanachevitch protested to AFP against the elections “illegal“.”It makes no sense“, he says.
– “Signs of torture” in Izioum –
On the side of the UN, a commission of inquiry recognized that “war crimes have been committed in Ukraine“, referring in particular to Russian bombardments on civilian areas, executions, acts of torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence.
Ukraine has also announced that it has exhumed 447 bodies from a mass burial site in Izium, a town recaptured from the Russians in the northeast, including 30 with “signs of torture” such as tied hands, broken limbs or “amputated genitals“.
On the diplomatic side, Iran has found itself in the crosshairs of the Ukrainian authorities, who blame it for its arms deliveries to Moscow and in particular drones, which killed one person in a Russian attack on the port of Odessa on Friday.
Lambasting behavior”hostile“kyiv has decided to withdraw the accreditation of the Iranian ambassador to Ukraine and to “drastically reduce“the staff of the Iranian embassy in Kyiv.
On the ground, Ukraine claimed Friday the capture of Yatskivka in the Donetsk region (east). She also says she advanced south of Bakhmout, a locality in the east, which the Russian army has been trying to take for months without success.
On the separatist side, the head of Donetsk Denis Pushilin spoke of a situation “extremely difficult“north of his town.
In the Lugansk region, another separatist official, Andrei Marochko, reported on Ukrainian shelling, noting that kyiv forces “want to do everything to derail the referendum“.
The hasty announcement of these elections was accompanied by that, Wednesday by Vladimir Putin, of the immediate mobilization of at least 300,000 reservists. The Russian president also threatened to use all of Russia’s arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons.
– Mobilization of Russian reservists –
This mobilization continued in Russia, the Kremlin seeking the parade with the advances of the Ukrainian army which, strong of the deliveries of Western weapons, claimed new territorial progress Friday.
Mr. Zelensky in this regard called on all Ukrainians who are in the territories occupied by the Russians to “hiding to escape Russian mobilization“and, if they cannot avoid it, to”sabotage all enemy activity“.
If television broadcast almost no images of the mobilization, several videos on social networks showed men with closed faces getting on buses after kissing their loved ones, some in tears.
Reached by AFP, Konstantin, 29, said he received his summons at his parents’ home. “I am still shocked“, he said. “I won’t hide but I won’t jump for joy either“.
Others were given a summons after being arrested during demonstrations against the mobilization on Wednesday.
“I expected the usual (procedures): the arrest, the police station, the court. But being told: + Tomorrow you are going to war + (…) that was a surprise“, told AFP Mikhail Suetin, 29, who refused to sign the document.
The announcement of the mobilization also pushed many Russians to leave the country, causing an influx at the borders, without it being possible to quantify the extent of the phenomenon.
Finland has decided to take measures to limit “significantly“the entry of Russian citizens on its soil, while the Baltic countries and Poland have already been drastically curbing entry for weeks.