Russian invaders creating "election commissions" in Kherson, Zaporizhzhya oblasts

24 July, 11:46 AM
Residents of Kherson at a pro-Ukrainian rally after the invasion of the Russian Federation into the region, May 3, 2022 (Photo:Suspilne Kherson)

Residents of Kherson at a pro-Ukrainian rally after the invasion of the Russian Federation into the region, May 3, 2022 (Photo:Suspilne Kherson)

Russian occupation forces in the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on July 23 signed "documents" on the creation of "election commissions," as reported by the Russian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

The "commissions" are reportedly being created in particular to hold sham referendums, though their composition has not yet been decided.

Melitopol collaborator Yevhen Balytskyi, who had previously proclaimed himself "governor," says that the "commission" will be formed "from the most active and involved residents of the region."

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On July 23, the invaders also announced the creation of the so-called "government of Zaporizhzhya Oblast," and the former deputy governor of Russia's Vologda Oblast, Anton Koltsov, became its "head."

Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said that the Russians had issued "decrees" in the temporarily occupied region on the creation of so-called "election commissions" to hold a sham referendum. He warned residents against participating in fake Russian events.

"Criminal liability for 'helping' the invaders is quite real: from 10 to 12 years in prison with possible confiscation of property,” he said in a Telegram messenger post on July 23.

The Center of National Resistance, created by the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reported on June 23 that the Russian invaders had planned to hold a sham referendum on the creation of "republics" in the temporarily occupied territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts on Sept. 11.

Luhansk Regional Governor Serhiy Hayday also reported that Russia had started preparations for a sham referendum in Luhansk Oblast.

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the U.S. National Security Council in the White House, said on July 19 the Biden administration has intelligence showing Russia is planning to annex Ukrainian territory captured after Feb. 24.

"Russia is laying groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory it controls in direct violation of Ukraine's sovereignty," Kirby said.

He added intelligence shows Russia is beginning to roll out an "annexation playbook" that's similar to what was done in the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russian troops control almost the entire territory of Kherson Oblast with the regional center and about 60% of the territory of Zaporizhzhya Oblast. At the same time, the city of Zaporizhzhya remains under the control of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy late on July 23 said that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were gradually advancing in Kherson Oblast, liberating territories.

The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that the Ukrainian army was preparing or had already launched a counteroffensive in the region.

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