Start of referendums on annexation to Russia in Ukraine | War in Ukraine
A boy wearing a t-shirt with the letter Z, a symbol of support for the Russian army, holds a flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.
Referendums on annexation to Russia began on Friday in four regions of Ukraine wholly or partly controlled by Moscow, as kyiv demanded new military advances in the east of the country. /p>
These polls are described as shams by kyiv and the West and mark a major escalation of the conflict that began on February 24.
At the same time, the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists continued in Russia, the Kremlin seeking to slow down the advances of the Ukrainian army, with the strength of Western arms deliveries.
On the side of the UN, a commission of inquiry has recognized that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, citing in particular Russian bombardments on civilian areas, executions, acts of torture , ill-treatment and sexual violence.
Ukraine has meanwhile announced that it has exhumed 436 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 bound hands. , broken limbs or amputated genitals.
Hundreds of polling stations opened at 5 a.m. GMT.
International criticism has not stopped Moscow from pursuing its plans for referendums in Ukraine.
Voting, which started at 5 a.m. GMT, will end on September 27 in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (east), and in areas under Russian occupation in the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia (south).
Hundreds of polling stations are to be opened in the four territories, and others in Russia to get displaced people to vote.
We hope that after the referendum they will stop bombing us, that we will have peace and order, said Vladimir Chotov, a native of the Luhansk region who came to vote at the Donetsk representation in Moscow.
In Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, authorities staged demonstrations in support of the referendums with flags and slogans.
People attend a rally and concert in support of annexation referendums in Russian-held areas of Ukraine, in Saint Petersburg, September 23, 2022.
These referendums are a step towards this peace, said Viktor Suvorov, 40, present at the Moscow rally, a stone's throw from the Place red.
In Ukraine, in Chevchenkové, the Ukrainian official Andriï Kanachevitch protested to AFP against illegal elections. To be honest, it's nonsense, he says.
Without going so far as to denounce the polls, China, the closest partner of Moscow, nevertheless went there with her criticism, calling for respect for territorial integrity.
As a sign of this approach, a surprise meeting took place in New York on Friday between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba.
A soldier from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic slips his ballot into the ballot box.
On the ground, Ukraine claimed responsibility for taking Yatskivka in the Donetsk region (east) on Friday. She also says she advanced south of Bakhmout, a locality in the east that the Russian army has been trying to take for months without success.
In Odessa, a major port of the Black Sea, a Russian attack on an Iranian drone killed one person, according to regional authorities. An attack that prompted the President's spokesman Volodymyr Zelensky to castigate Tehran, whose arms deliveries to Moscow go against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
On the side of the separatists, the leader of Donetsk Denis Pushilin spoke of an extremely difficult situation north of his city.
In the Luhansk region, another separatist leader, Andrei Marochko, has reports Ukrainian bombardments, noting that kyiv forces want to do everything to derail the referendum.
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The hasty announcement of the polls was accompanied by that of Mr. Putin, on Wednesday, to decree the immediate mobilization of at least 300,000 reservists.
On images posted on social networks and claiming to show the mobilization in a locality of Yakutia, in Siberia, men with closed faces kissed their loved ones before boarding a bus.
In In another video posted by popular Telegram channel Mash, a line of men stood in front of a troop transport plane on a tarmac at night.
Reached by AFP, Konstantin, 29, said he received his summons to his parents' home in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southwestern Russia, 120 km from the Ukrainian border.
I'm still in shock, he says. I'm not going to hide, but I'm not jumping for joy either.
Cars line up to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border.
D' 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, court. But being told: "Tomorrow you are going to war", […] that was a surprise, told AFP Mikhaïl Souetine, 29, who refused to sign the document.
The announcement of the mobilization also convinced many Russians to leave the country, without it being possible to quantify the extent of the phenomenon .
Finland has thus decided to take measures to significantly limit the entry of Russian citizens on its soil, while the Baltic countries and Poland are already strongly blocking entry for weeks.