Ukrainian officials from the occupied parts of the country on Friday accused pro-Russian forces of using coercive tactics in secession referendums, which Western leaders have described as a “scam”.
Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor, said on Telegram that “the main method of coercion to vote is door-to-door campaigning”.
Mariupol in Donetskone of four regions of Ukraine – occupied to varying degrees by Russian and pro-Russian forces – where Russian-backed leaders hold what Ukrainian and Western governments have considered are fake referendums on joining the Russian Federation.
Andriushchenko is not in the city, but is a reliable source of information from Mariupol. CNN was unable to independently verify his and other characteristics.
“Voting stations are located in shops and cafes,” Andriushchenko said. “However, they are empty. There were no usual amenities such as voting booths. Seals are made under the close supervision of armed men. This is what Russian democracy looks like.”
Yurii Sobolevskyi, deputy director of Kherson The regional council, told CNN that the effort being made in his area has seen very little turnout.
“Most people are adamant about not going,” he said. “That’s why this open door idea was born, because when armed people come to your house, it’s very difficult and dangerous even to refuse to vote.”
He said that it was the United Russia party – Russia’s ruling party – that campaigned for secession and distributed food packages to the people.
He said that the population of the occupied city of Kherson has halved since the Russian invasion. The rest, he said, leaned toward the elderly.
Exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol – which one is inside? Zaporizhzhia regionand occupied by Russia – also called on residents to boycott the vote.
Ivan Fedorov said on Telegram that participating is to “take part of the responsibility for war crimes in Bucha, Borodianka, Mariupol, Izium, etc.”
“Participating in a fake referendum is the worst betrayal,” he said. “Yourself, your family, all Ukrainians, your country!”