Fri. Mar 24th, 2023

‘Referendums’ taking place under tha barrel of the gun, academic says

Dr Olexiy Haran, Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, speaks to CNBC about “referendums” being held in occupied parts of Ukraine on whether to join Russia.

The votes are widely seen as illegitimate, fake attempts by Russia to legimitize the annexation of four regions of Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south).

There have been multiple reports of voting irregularities and the results are expected to be rigged, with analysts saying Russia could look to announce it will annex the four regions by the end of the week.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian conscripts head off to war in Ukraine while others try to flee the draft

Many Russian reservists called up to be sent to Ukraine have been reporting for duty at military bases in Russia before setting off to fight in Ukraine. Reuters footage showed queues at the border with Georgia as men tried to escape the draft.

Video footage by Reuters in Bataysk in the Rostov region showed soldiers arriving in uniform at military recruiting offices before showing them setting off to war carrying backpacks.

“I got the draft notice yesterday. A man came and gave it to me. Mum was unhappy but what could we do, we have to defend our country,” one reservist, Roman Khodakov, told Reuters.

“Fear is one thing. The main thing is to overcome the fear. I only fear for my family; they are heartbroken. I don’t fear for myself. It’s God’s will,” he added.

The wife of another reservist said she found the situation “frightening.”

When asked what she was afraid of, Yevgeniya Naboka said, “What everybody is scared of. The main thing for him to come back alive and healthy.” Her husband, Dmitry Naboka, said he was feeling positive about the draft.

“I’m positive. I will come back alive and healthy. It’s going to be okay. I’m a sergeant in reserve.”

Russia trying to delay the moment they lose the war, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are delaying the inevitable moment when they lose the war in Ukraine, saying men drafted to fight in the conflict are just “cannon fodder” for Russia.

In this image taken from video, a Russian draftee kisses his partner before boarding a bus to be sent to the military units of the Eastern Military District, in Yakutsk, Russia, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mobilization is underway in Russia’s Far Eastern region of Yakutia after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists Wednesday to bolster his forces in Ukraine.

AP Photo

“Despite the obvious senselessness of the war for Russia and the occupiers’ loss of initiative, the command of the Russian military still drives them to their death,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram Monday night.

“Constant attempts of the Russian offensive in the Donetsk region will surely go down in the history of wars as one of the most cynical murders of one’s own soldiers,” he said, adding that such offensives and the Russian mobilization are an attempt to give commanders on the ground a constant stream of “cannon fodder.”

“There is simply no other point in the Russian mobilization. They felt that they will lose, and they are simply trying to delay this moment, to ensure at least some activity at the front, to replace the dead with at least someone with weapons in their hands. Unfortunately, Russian society is not yet aware of all the brutality of the Russian government towards its own people,” he added.

President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization last week, causing a flurry of Russian men set to be called up in the draft to attempt to flee the country. There have been multiple reports of standoffs between conscripts and military officials and anti-mobilization protests have erupted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia set to annex more of Ukraine after final day of voting in sham referendums

Tuesday is the final day of voting in a series of sham referendums on joining Russia that are being held in occupied regions of Ukraine: in two pro-Russian separatist “republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Today is the only day that polling stations will open, with officials citing security reasons for the brief opening, with other votes collected by officials going door to door with portable ballot boxes.

People cast their votes in controversial referendums in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on Sept. 26, 2022. Voting runs from Friday to Tuesday in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Voters are asked to decide if they want these regions to become part of Russia.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

There have been numerous reports of other irregular electoral practices and the votes are seen as illegal, coercive and staged, although Moscow insists they’re legitimate.

Russian state news agency Tass reported that voter turnout for the referenda stood at 86.89% in Donetsk, 83.61% in the Luhansk, 63.58% in the Kherson region and 66.43% in the Zaporizhzhia region although those figures could well be fake.

Ukraine’s Western allies have said they will not recognize the results of any of the fake referenda. Still, Russia is likely to hail the votes as a success and is expected to annex the four regions from Ukraine within days, analysts at risk consultancy Teneo say.

“Following the so-called referendums, Moscow is expected to swiftly annex these regions, possibly by the end of this week,” Teneo analysts said in a note Monday.

“As previously noted, Russia’s treatment of these regions as its own territory could pave the way for further escalation of the war, including ultimatums backed by nuclear threats.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Senior Russian lawmakers express concern over Putin’s mobilization as thousands attempt to flee the country

People carrying luggage walk past vehicles with Russian license plates on the Russian side of the border towards the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia some 25 km outside the town of Vladikavkaz, on September 25, 2022.

– | Afp | Getty Images

Amid increasing public anger about Russia’s mobilization drive, two of the country’s most senior lawmakers ordered regional officials to solve the “excesses” that have stoked protests and seen flocks of military-age men attempt to flee.

Valentina Matviyenko and Vyacheslav Volodin both took to the Telegram messaging app to address what they said were the many complaints from the public about the mistakes that were made when recruiting civilians into the military.

“Appeals are coming in,” Volodin, speaker of the Duma, Russia’s lower chamber of Parliament, said in a post Sunday. “Each case should be dealt with separately. If a mistake is made, it must be corrected,” he said.

“All levels of government must understand their responsibility,” he added.

Videos posted to social media have also shown arguments between military recruiters and reservists, as well as members of the public, prompting even ultra-loyal pro-Kremlin figures to publicly express concern.

Read the full story from NBC News.

The Kremlin says it is in sporadic contact with Washington over nuclear issues

The St. Basil Cathedral and a Kremlin tower are visible on the Red Square in Moscow.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

The Kremlin said it was in “sporadic” contact with Washington on nuclear issues after the two traded threats concerning the use of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.

Washington over the weekend warned of “horrific consequences” and a decisive U.S. response if Putin were to make good on his threat of using nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory. That territory, in Putin’s eyes, may soon include areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, where Moscow is now staging highly-criticized referendums to join the Russian Federation.

Ukrainian and Western officials are deriding the votes as a sham with a pre-determined outcome in favor of Russia, which they warn could give Putin a pretext to use nuclear weapons in order to attack forces trying to retake them for Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Russian state media reports high turnout in occupied territory referendums

Residents cast their votes in controversial referendums in the city of Dokuchaievsk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on September 23, 2022. Voting will run from Friday to Tuesday in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, with people asked to decide if they want these regions to become part of Russia.

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian state news agency RIA has reported turnout levels in the Russian-controlled “referendums” in four of Ukraine’s occupied territories. It said that turnout for the votes so far ranged from 49% in the southern Kherson region to 77% in the eastern Donetsk oblast.

The announced figures are high enough that Moscow will likely deem the results legitimate, although numerous reports and videos have surfaced of people being forced to vote and votes being staged. Voting began on Friday and will run until Tuesday.

Ukrainian and international governments have roundly condemned the referendums, calling them a “sham” and refusing to recognize the results, which they say will be rigged in Russia’s favor.

— Natasha Turak

First troops in Russia’s ‘partial mobilization’ wave arrive at bases

The first troops in Russia’s “partial mobilization” wave have started arriving at military bases, and the country will struggle to arm and train them all properly, security analysts say.

“Unlike most Western armies, the Russian military provides low-level, initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than in dedicated training establishments,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense wrote in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

“The lack of military trainers, and the haste with which Russia has started the mobilisation, suggests that many of the drafted troops will deploy to the front line with minimal relevant preparation. They are likely to suffer a high attrition rate,” the ministry wrote.

— Natasha Turak

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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