newYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
Whether the controversial referendum Moscow-controlled areas of Ukraine Russia should be joined starting Friday, according to Russian-backed officials.
The referendum asked certain Ukrainians if they wanted their region to be part of Russia.Vote expected to support Russia already Condemned by Ukrainians and Westerners Again, who accused it of being an illegal step towards annexation.
The referendum involves four occupied territories, which the Kremlin is likely to use to justify annexation of Ukrainian territory, thereby escalating the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Voting took place in Luhansk, Kherson and parts of the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye and Donetsk regions.
During the first few days, election officials will hand over ballots to residents, and they will also set up pop-up polling stations. Officials at the Russian installation cited “security reasons” during the vote.
Residents will be invited to vote at regular polling places next Tuesday, the last day of the referendum.
If the vote goes in Russia’s favor, the Kremlin could attack Russia directly on the pretext that Ukrainian forces are trying to regain control of the disputed area.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky The “sham referendum” was mentioned in one of his nightly speeches, when he also called Russian citizens “complicit in all these crimes”.
“You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” the Ukrainian president said in Russian. “Because you were silent. Because you were silent. Now is your time to choose.”
“For men in Russia, it’s a life-or-death choice, whether to be crippled or to stay healthy,” Zelensky added. “For women in Russia, the choice is to lose husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to protect them from death, war, one person.”
As voting began on Friday, Russian social media sites were reportedly flooded with emotional scenes of families saying goodbye to a man heading to the draft, according to the Associated Press.
The referendum vote will close on September 27.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.