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Russia shells Ukrainian city as controversial votes take place in occupied territories NewsPipa

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Russian forces launched a new offensive against Ukrainian cities today as votes coordinated by the Kremlin were held in occupied territories to create a pretext for annexation by Moscow.

Meanwhile, in Russia, hundreds of people have been arrested for trying to resist a mobilization order to send more troops to the fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s presidential office said at least three people were killed and 19 wounded in the latest Russian shelling.

Oleksandr Stalf, the Ukrainian governor of Zaporizhia, one of the regions where Moscow-based officials organized a referendum on Russia’s accession, said a Russian missile hit an apartment in the city, killing one person. died and seven were injured.

Ukraine and its western allies argue that the ongoing referendums in Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south and the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east are unenforceable.

They argued that the vote was an illegal attempt by Moscow to seize Ukrainian territory stretching from the Russian border to Crimea.

Luhansk Governor Serhi Haiday said the vote “looked like an opinion poll under the barrel”, with Moscow-backed local officials accompanying election officials to vote against joining Russia. It added that it had sent armed escorts to remove the names of individuals.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians in the occupied territories to undermine the referendum and share information about those conducting “this farce”.

He also called on Russian recruits to act sabotage and abandon their troops if called up under the partial mobilization of troops announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

“If you infiltrate the Russian army, disrupt enemy activity, sabotage Russian operations and provide vital information about the occupiers – their bases, headquarters, warehouses with ammunition,” Zelensky said. I got

President Putin hastily approved a bill today that would tighten the punishment for soldiers who disobey an officer’s orders, desert or surrender to the enemy.

To conduct the referendum that began on Friday, election officials accompanied by police officers took ballots home and set up mobile polling stations, citing security reasons. Voting will close on Tuesday. Donetsk Governor Pablo Kirilenko said:

“Half of the population fled the Donetsk region because of Russian terrorism and constant shelling, and voted against Russia.

In the Ukrainian capital, about 100 people from the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, part of the Donetsk region, gathered to protest the referendum, wearing Ukrainian flags and holding posters reading “Mariupol is Ukraine”. I was.

“They ruined the city, killed thousands of people, and now they’re doing some kind of blasphemy over there,” said Vladislav Kirdishov, who helped organize the rally. .

Demonstrator Elina Sitkova, 21, said that despite months of bombings in the city of Mariupol, she left many relatives in Mariupol and said the vote was “for nothing.” The illusion of choice,” he said.

Referring to the 2014 referendum in Crimea before Moscow annexed the peninsula, she said, “It’s like a joke. It’s the same as Crimea, so it’s fake, it’s not real.” is considered illegal.

The mobilization ordered by Putin marks a sharp shift from his efforts to view the seven-month war as a “special military operation” that will not interfere in the lives of most Russians.

Russian police moved quickly to disperse demonstrations against the mobilization held in several cities across Russia on Saturday, arresting about 500 people.

More than 1,300 protesters were arrested in the wave ahead of Wednesday’s protests, and many of them immediately received subpoenas.

Russian leader and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the order applies to reservists who have recently served or had special skills, but almost all men remain in the reservists until age 65. and Putin’s order opened the door to a wider convocation.

The Russian ministry said the partial mobilization was initially aimed at adding about 300,000 troops to bolster Ukraine’s large volunteer force. The Ukrainian government has suspended most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country following a general mobilization order aimed at building a million-strong army shortly after Russia invaded on February 24. .

Across 11 Russian time zones, men have been rounded up for conscription after hugging crying family members, amid fears that a wider conscription would follow.

Some media reports claimed that Russian authorities planned to recruit more than 1 million recruits, but the Kremlin denied that.

To assuage public fears about the rally, which could undermine Putin’s grip on power, officials have announced that many Russians working in tech, communications, or finance will be exempt.

After several pilots from Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot and other airlines were reportedly given notices to mobilize, a union of pilots and traffic controllers followed government promises that they too would be excluded from the mobilization. I moved quickly to secure it.

Many Russian men bought rare and exorbitantly priced air tickets outside the country amid rumors swirling about pending border closures. Traffic jams at the border were hours, sometimes days long. The mass exodus emphasized the war’s unpopularity and fueled public anger.

In a sign that the Kremlin has begun to worry about the backlash, the top director of state television has said it hastily wiped out random people to meet mobilization targets, rather than calling out those with specific skills and recent military service. He severely criticized the military authorities, as Putin promised.

RT chief Margarita Simoyan lashed out at the recruiting office for “driving people crazy” by rounding up people who shouldn’t have been drafted. “It’s as if they were ordered to do so by Kyiv. ‘ she said.

Kremlin-backed Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov has sent troops to fight in Ukraine and has repeatedly called for tougher action.

He denounces those fleeing mobilization as cowards and argues that the police and various militias, which together with the army number 5 million men in total, would make for a much better trained and motivated fighting force. did.

“If you leave 50% of the manpower to carry out the mission, the remaining 2.5 million will blow away the Western army and you don’t need reservists,” Kadyrov said.

Putin’s mobilization order was a humiliating defeat that highlighted the failure of Moscow’s military plans, followed by a swift Ukrainian counterattack that forced Moscow’s withdrawal from large stretches northeast of Kharkov.

The Ministry of Defense announced today that it has dismissed General Dmitry Bulgakov from the position of Deputy Defense Minister in charge of logistics. Although he did not mention the cause, the move was widely seen as punishment for the deficiencies of its aid efforts in Ukraine.

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