After sham referendums in Ukraine: “We are all very worried”

Status: 09/26/2022 05:04 a.m

In the Russian agencies we see beaming people saying that referendum days are public holidays. But the picture is deceptive. Voices from southern Ukraine.

By Silke Diettrich, ARD Studio Kyiv

We’re not supposed to give her name or the city she lives in. The young woman lives in the Zaporizhia region, in one of the areas occupied by the Russians. She doesn’t want to take part in the sham vote, and fortunately no one came by.

But she is very afraid of what could happen in her city after this sham vote: “Everyone here is very worried, especially about the partial Russian mobilization,” she says. “Everyone understands that it can also affect us. If we are annexed to Russia, then our men will probably also be called up. There are already rumors that volunteer battalions are being formed here. I don’t know if that’s true, but the people talk about.”

Poll workers with soldiers

Many of her acquaintances have tried to leave the city in the past few days. However, men between the ages of 18 and 35 were prevented from leaving the country. Schools and kindergartens in her city have been closed since Friday, and the Russians have now set up pseudo polling stations in some of them.

Election workers were already standing in front of her parents’ door, accompanied by soldiers. But they were not forced to vote. Her cousin would have ticked the box for staying in Ukraine. The so-called election workers are said not to have even asked for identity papers.

“I think anyway, or rather: I’m sure that these votes don’t matter anyway. Everything has already been decided, the vote is a pure farce,” she says.

Loosely based on Stalin

A man around 60 from the city of Cherson, who reports via WhatsApp via voice message, sees it the same way. He immediately deletes it on his own phone, just to be on the safe side. The Russians could eavesdrop on everything, he says. His name should not be mentioned and he would like his voice to be alienated.

To comment on the sham elections, he uses an alleged quote from Stalin: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide anything. The people who cast the votes count outdecide everything.”

But not even those who went to the polls would understand that. In Cherson, a port city in southern Ukraine, many have fled since the beginning of the war. Especially young people and those who are for Ukraine:

“Among those who are here, there will certainly be many who are in favor of belonging to Russia. Even without being forced to do so. But the election result will be pure fiction. The most important thing is probably,” he says cynically, ” that the turnout is not more than 100 percent.”

Voting not possible at all

It probably won’t go that far, but the young woman from Zaporizhia also says at the end of her voice message: “Yesterday you announced here on your local social channels that the turnout in the Zaporizhia region was 80% is of course nonsense.”

Because nobody knows exactly who is still living in the regions or who fled before. And in some areas there is so much fighting that a vote is not possible there under any circumstances.

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