Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

Russian forces launched new deadly strikes overnight in Ukrainian cities, including Zaporizhzhia, where Kremlin-staged voting is underway. Saturday marks the second day that people in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine are voting on whether to become part of Russia. 

The referendums, which bid to annex four occupied territories in Ukraine, are similar to the 2014 referendum that led to the annexation of Crimea. 

As CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta reports, exiled mayor Ivan Federov of the now-Russian-occupied Melitopol said Ukrainian citizens are being forced to vote under Russia’s watchful eye. 

“It’s impossible to make a referendum with many people in other cities of temporarily occupied territory,” Federov said. “Nobody wants to collaborate.”

The five-day process, which began Friday, has been widely condemned in the West as a sham that could provide Russian President Vladimir Putin the pretext to escalate his war. The White House has criticized the hastily organized elections as a sign of Putin’s weakness. 

This past week Putin threatened to unleash nuclear weapons and announced a call-up of his military reserves. But the move has not gone down well, sending a panicked exodus of Russians trying to escape conscription. 

Call-up papers were handed out within hours of Putin’s announcement, giving citizens no time to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones. 

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