Russian forces yesterday launched fresh attacks on Ukrainian cities as Kremlin-orchestrated referendums continued in occupied regions of Ukraine to pave the way for their annexation by Moscow.
Zaporizhia Governor Oleksandr Starukh said the Russians attacked infrastructure facilities in the city on the Dnieper River. One of the shells hit a residential building, killing one person and wounding seven, he added.
Moscow forces hit other parts of the country, damaging homes and civilian infrastructure.
One of the objectives of the Russian forces was the Pechenihy dam, on the Siverskyy Donets river, in northeastern Ukraine, explained the Ministry of Defense of Great Britain. This follows previous similar actions against a dam on a reservoir near Kryvyi Rih, which caused flooding of the Inhulets River,
“Ukrainian forces are advancing further downstream along both rivers,” the British report said. “As Russian commanders become increasingly concerned about their operational setbacks, they will likely try to attack dam gates to flood Ukrainian military crossing points.”
Despite the fighting, the vote in the consultations organized by the Kremlin in the occupied regions continued yesterday. Ukraine and its Western allies consider this process to be a farce without legal validity.
The five days of scheduled voting in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as in Jershon and Zaporiyia, in the south, began on Friday. The electoral authorities, accompanied by police officers, took the ballots from house to house and installed mobile voting booths, citing security reasons. The consultation will end on Tuesday with a day of voting in an electoral center.
Refugees and residents of these regions who are now on Russian territory could also vote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will listen to the will of the population, a clear indication that the Kremlin is ready to annex the regions quickly once the vote is over.
Ukraine and the West have called the referendums an illegitimate attempt by the Kremlin to seize much of the country, from the Russian border to the Crimean peninsula. A similar vote was held in Crimea in 2014 before Russia incorporated it into its territory, a move that most of the world considered illegal.
On the other hand, the Russian Ministry of Defense yesterday announced the dismissal of General Dmitry Bulgakov as deputy minister in charge of military logistics. Although the reason for the cessation was not mentioned, it is widely considered as a punishment for the failures of the operation in Ukraine.
Zelensky calls on Russians to avoid joining the army
For his part, the President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, called on Ukrainians in the occupied regions to undermine the consultations and share information about the people carrying out “this farce”. He also urged Ukrainians to avoid being called up in the Russian mobilization announced on Wednesday.
“Hide from the Russian mobilization by all means,” Zelenskyy said. “Avoid recruitment letters. Try to get to the free territory of Ukraine.”
“But if you end up in the Russian Army, then sabotage any enemy activity, interfere with any Russian operation, give us all the important information about the occupiers (…) And at the first opportunity, move to our positions,” the president added in his late-night speech.
The partial call-up ordered by Putin aims to add some 300,000 troops to his army, the Defense Ministry said. but the presidential decree leaves the door open to expand the call. Some media claimed that the authorities plan to mobilize more than a million people, but the Kremlin denied the reports.
Since its announcement, the campaign provoked demonstrations in several Russian cities that were immediately put down by the police and left more than 1,300 detainees. Anti-war activists plan more protests.
Many Russians desperately trying to leave the country bought the few plane tickets on sale at exorbitant prices. Thousands more fled by road, creating traffic jams of hours and even days at some borders. Lines were so long at the border with Kazakhstan that some abandoned their cars and made the journey on foot, as some Ukrainians did when Russia invaded their country on February 24.
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