How the "referendum" in the "LPR" actually looked like - eyewitness reports
Under close supervision: "Voting" in the occupied part of Ukraine took place with the participation of the Russian military (in the photo - Mariupol) (Photo:REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)
It took the Kremlin about a week to organize a "referendum" in occupied Ukrainian territories. As residents under the occupation of the Luhansk puppet authority told NV, the invaders and collaborators did not even try to create the appearance of legitimacy of this “expression of will”.
“As smooth as a jackhammer” – this is how “voting” looked like at the so-called “referendum on joining Russia” organized by the Russians in the occupied regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts. It took the invaders and collaborators five days to do the whole thing.
The first four days were spent on creating the appearance of "remote voting", when people with portable ballot boxes and accompanied by armed soldiers went knocking door-to-door. The last day was spent on carrying out the procedure of the “people's will”, which took place at the “polling stations”, usually in schools. Moreover, the Russians were in a rush this time - and by 1600 they already announced the end of this action.
In just six minutes, Russian news agencies broadcast the first results of the “voting”, based on which the vast majority of the population of the territories occupied by Russia just love the idea of becoming Russians: 97.47% of the inhabitants of the occupied regions of Kherson Oblast voted “for” joining Russian and the same goes for 98.05% of those remaining in Donetsk.
In other words, the invaders barely tried to give at least some legitimacy to their "referendum". This is evidenced not only by the speed of the "voting" and "counting of votes", not only by the ridiculous results of the "expression of will", but even by the fact that allegedly 1.8 million people "took part" in the voting in the territory controlled by Luhansk puppet authority. According to the standard methodology for estimating populations, this means that if we take into account those who did not reach the ballot boxes, as well as children and adolescents, 2.5 million people should live in the region. And this number is higher than official data in 2013 - 2.2 million – as if there was no mass population loss due to full-scale war, mobilization and migration.
Oleksandr, a Luhansk businessman, told NV on condition of anonymity that on the eve of the “referendum”, the “republican authorities” ordered the residents of Luhansk to hang the Russian flag on the balconies of their apartments.
According to him, the “voting” procedure took place everywhere: there were door-to-door visits, and an “expression of will” on the street, on some stumps outside.
“They were walking everywhere, calling, knocking on the door,” said Oleksandr.
“They were taking people on buses and driving them to the voting sites.”
Oleksandr adds that many locals didn’t even think about the fact that after the “referendum” the war would not end, but on the contrary - it would intensify.
"This is the result of eight years of full-fledged propaganda,” explained Luhansk resident.
“That was the final step.”
An important element of this whole “staging” were the “foreign observers”, consisting of different people who have long since been cooperating with the Kremlin. In particular, the appearance of “legitimacy” in the Luhansk puppet authority was provided by propagandist Graham Phillips, against whom sanctions were imposed in the UK, his homeland. Another UK national, Maximilian Clark, who has long been making pro-Russian photo reports from Donbas, also pretended to be an “observer” for this sham referendum. Their “colleagues” were the German Thomas Röper, editor of the Anti-Spiegel website, a supporter of conspiracy theories and Russian propaganda, and the French Luc Benoit from the France 2 TV channel (who traveled with invading Russian forces through the occupied territories of Ukraine) and André Shancloud, a former member of the ultra-right French movement Groupe Union Defense (GUD).
A vote for nothing
32-year-old Irina, a resident of Rovenki, Luhansk Oblast, told NV how mobile “voting stations” traveled around the streets. There was no "secret expression of will" at all: a note in the "ballot" had to be made in full view of the "members of the election committee." If someone checked the option “against reunification with Russia”, that person was immediately included in a separate list.
Pensioners became active supporters of the "referendum" among the locals. They also campaigned for their neighbors.
“I was walking home and I met a man from my building who said:“ Gotta go home for a passport and then vote. Have you voted yet?” Irina said.
“They got so worked up all of the sudden. Not only have our men been taken away for slaughter, we have been sitting without water for two months, there are no salaries, the price of everything has skyrocketed, we have zero signs of a civilization here, no connection with the outside world ... ”
Serhiy Sakadynsky, a Luhansk resident and former journalist, assured NV that even before the last day of the “referendum” began, before the polling stations were opened, the local “authorities” reported that 90% of the residents under occupation in Luhansk took part in the “vote”.
Sakadynsky said that those Luhansk residents who oppose the “joining with Russia” didn’t go to the “referendum” – they say, what’s the point?
“Because there is no choice,” he explained. At the same time, there were many advertising boards around the city saying how good it is to live in Russia. They also handed out leaflets with newspapers dedicated to the “Russian happiness” approaching Luhansk Oblast.
Oleksiy Artyukh, a journalist who left the occupied town of Rubizhne in Luhansk Oblast, is monitoring the situation in his hometown with the help of his acquaintances.
According to him, there were cases when one person “voted” for himself and for five of his relatives who left the region. And this, according to Artyukh, happened not only in Rubizhne, but also throughout occupied parts of Donbas.
“The Russians are not even trying to create some semblance of legitimacy,” the journalist explained.
“This is for an internal use only. There are many videos online where they walk with machine guns. A man wrote to me from the occupied Novopskov saying that they are afraid and don’t know what to do if the Russians come, as they don’t want to vote.”
Artyukh adds that often "commissions" consist of Russians who recently came here or "experienced" collaborators. The “referendum” in Rubizhne, according to him, was mostly done by the former teacher Nelya Zadiraka, who has been actively pro-Russian in the region since 2014.
According to Russian propaganda media, now the "authorities" of the occupied parts of Ukraine will turn to the Kremlin, which will "recognize" them as its territories either on Sept. 30 or in early October.
Ukrainian political expert Oleksiy Golubitsky explains this haste by saying that Russian dictator Putin is going to massively mobilize the inhabitants of the occupied territories in order to make them a “human shield” on the path of the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In addition, Kremlin’s head intends after the annexation to begin nuclear blackmail of the West and Ukraine: they say, "this is now our land and we have the right to defend it."
At the same time, as Russian propagandists write, the invaders are not going to remove the checkpoints on the borders of “our land” and the real Russia.
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