Ukrainian officials from occupied regions of the country on Friday accused pro-Russian forces of using coercive tactics in referendums on secession, which Western leaders described as a “hoax”.
“The main method of coercion to vote is door-to-door voting,” Petro Andryushenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, said on Telegram.
Mariupol inside Donetskone of four Ukrainian regions — occupied to varying degrees by Russian and pro-Russian forces — where Russian-backed leaders are conducting what Ukraine and Western governments have called sham referendums on joining the Russian Federation.
Andryushenko is not in the city, but he was a reliable channel for obtaining information from Mariupol. CNN is not able to independently verify its descriptions and others.
“Polling stations are located in shops and cafes,” Andryushenko said. “However, it is empty. There are no usual amenities like polling booths there. The sign is placed under close supervision by militants. This is what Russian democracy looks like.”
Yuri Sobolevsky, Vice President Kherson The regional council told CNN that the effort in his area had seen very little turnout.
“Most people are determined not to go,” he said. “That’s why this door-to-door idea came about, because when armed men come into your house, it will be difficult and dangerous even to refuse to vote.”
He said United Russia – Russia’s ruling party – is campaigning for secession while also distributing food parcels to residents.
He said that the population of the occupied city of Kherson had fallen by half since the Russian invasion. The rest, he said, tend to be older.
Ukrainian mayor in exile Melitopol – He is in Zaporizhia regionoccupied by Russia – he also urged residents to boycott the vote.
Ivan Fedorov said on Telegram that participating means “taking part of the responsibility for the war crimes in Bucha, Borodianka, Mariupol, Izyum, etc.”
“Participation in a fake referendum is the worst betrayal,” he said. “Yourself, your family, all Ukrainians, your country!”