Russia Shells Ukraine Cities Amid Votes09/24 08:58
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian forces launched new strikes on Ukrainian
cities as Kremlin-orchestrated votes took place in occupied regions of Ukraine
to create a pretext for their annexation by Moscow.
Ukraine's presidential office said the latest Russian shelling killed at
least three people and wounded 19. Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian governor of
Zaporizhzhia, one of the regions where Moscow-installed officials organized
referendums on joining Russia, said a Russian missile hit an apartment building
in the city of Zaporizhzhia, killing one person and injuring seven others.
In the five-day voting in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and
Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south that began Friday, election officials
accompanied by police officers carried ballots to homes and set up mobile
polling stations, citing safety reasons. The votes are set to wrap up Tuesday,
when balloting will be held at polling stations.
Ukraine and its Western allies say the referendums have no legal force. They
alleged the votes were an illegitimate attempt by Moscow to slice away a large
part of Ukraine, stretching from the Russian border to the Crimean Peninsula. A
similar referendum took place in Crimea in 2014 before Moscow annexed it, a
move that most of the world considered illegal.
"Half of the population fled the Donetsk region because of Russian terror
and constant shelling, voting against Russia with their feet, and the second
half has been cheated and scared," Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians in occupied regions
to undermine the referendums and to share information about the people
conducting "this farce." He also called on people to try to avoid the partial
troop mobilization Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday or to
sabotage and desert the Russian military if they ended up in the ranks.
"If you get into the Russian army, sabotage any activity of the enemy,
hinder any Russian operations, provide us with any important information about
the occupiers -- their bases, headquarters, warehouses with ammunition,"
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the voting "looked more like an opinion
survey under the gun barrels," adding that the Moscow-backed local authorities
were sending sending armed escorts to accompany election officials and to note
the names of individuals who voted against joining Russia.
In the Ukrainian capital, about 100 people from the Russia-occupied city of
Mariupol, which is part of the Donetsk region, gathered to protest the
referendum, covering themselves in Ukrainian flags and carrying posters
"Mariupol is Ukraine."
"They ruined the city, killed thousands of people, and now they are doing
some kind of profanation over there," said Vladyslav Kildishov who helped
organize the rally.
Elina Sytkova, 21, a demonstrator who has many relatives left in Mariupol
even though the city spent months under bombardment, said the vote was "like a
joke, because it's the same as it was in Crimea, meaning it's fake and not
real." "It's an illusion of choice when there isn't any." she added.
Russia's Defense Ministry said that the partial mobilization ordered by
Putin aimed to add about 300,000 troops, but the presidential decree keeps the
door open for a broader call-up.
Across Russa's 11 time zones, men hugged their weeping family members before
being rounded up for service amid fears that a wider call-up might follow. Some
media reports claimed that the Russian authorities actually plan to mobilize
more than 1 million, the allegations denied by the Kremlin.
Police moved quickly to disperse more demonstrations against the
mobilization that were held in several cities across Russia on Saturday and
detained more than 100 participants. Over 1,300 protesters were arrested during
antiwar demonstrations on Wednesday, and many of them immediately received
Many Russian men tried desperately to leave the country, buying up scarce
and exorbitantly priced plane tickets. Thousands others fled by car, creating
lines of traffic hours or even days long at some borders.
The mobilization marked a sharp shift from Putin's effort to cast the
seven-month war as a "special military operation" that doesn't intefere with
the lives of most Russians. The massive exodus underlined the unpopularity of
the war and fueled public outrage that could erode his grip on power.
Moving to assuage public fears over the call-up, the authorities announced
that many of those working in high tech, communications or finance will be
And in a signal that the Kremlin was getting worried about the spreading
panic and chaos caused by the mobilization, the head of a top state-controlled
TV station harshly criticized military authorities for hastily sweeping up
random people to meet mobilization targets instead of calling up people with
military skills who had served recently, as Putin promised.
RT chief Margarita Simonyan lashed out at military conscription offices for
"driving people mad" by rounding up those who weren't supposed to be drafted.
"It's as if they were tasked by Kyiv to do that," she said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed regional leader of Chechnya who sent his
forces to fight in Ukraine and repeatedly called for tougher action, suggested
that Moscow should more broadly engage personnel from law-enforcement agencies
in the fighting.
He denounced those fleeing the mobilization as cowards and argued that
police and various paramilitary agencies that number a total of 5 million
together with the military would make a much better-trained and motivated
"If we leave 50 percent of the personnel to fulfil their duties, 2.5 million
others will blow any Western army away and we won't need any reservists,"
Putin's mobilization order followed a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive that
forced Moscow's retreat from broad swaths of the northeastern Kharkiv region, a
humiliating defeat that highlighted blunders in Moscow's military planning.
The Defense Ministry on Saturday announced the dismissal of Gen. Dmitry
Bulgakov from the post of deputy defense minister in charge of logistics. It
didn't mention the cause for his ouster, but the move was widely seen as a
punishment for the flaws in supporting operations in Ukraine.