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Moscow is moving forward with its plan to annex Ukraine’s Kherson region by holding “rigged” elections designed to manipulate local support for joining the Russian Federation, United Kingdom officials said.
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If Russia holds a referendum election in Kherson, which borders Russia-annexed Crimea, “it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority to leave Ukraine,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. intelligence update.
Russian forces captured the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson in early March, but have so far not committed the atrocities against civilians as in other parts of Ukraine, according to the Associated Press. The locals suspected they had been spared because Russia has a special plan to organize a fake referendum to convert the area into the “Kherson People’s Republic”, like the pro-Russian breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the residents of occupied Kherson in April about Russia’s plan for an organized referendum. He warned them to protect their personal information from attempts to falsify votes. “This is a reality. Be careful,” he said.
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The Russian-imposed military-civilian government in Kherson has announced it will ask Russia to include Kherson in the Russian Federation, the British Ministry of Defense said.
“A central part of Russia’s original invasion plan was most likely the use of rigged referendums to place the majority of Ukraine’s regions under long-standing pro-Russian rule,” the British intelligence update said.
“The fact that Russia has only succeeded in imposing pro-Russian local leadership in Kherson underscores the failure of the Russian invasion to make progress towards its political objectives in Ukraine.”
Russian troops have occupied Kherson City Hall and lowered the Ukrainian flag. The Russians replaced the mayor with their own appointee last month.
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Still, civilians in Kherson are likely to continue to demonstrate their resistance to the Russian occupation, the British Ministry of Defense said.
The false election tactics have been used before. In 2014, a controversial referendum in Crimea amid Russian annexation was widely believed to have been rigged, and the results showed nearly 97% of voters in favor of joining Russia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.