A Rigged Annexiation vote….
A VERY unpopular draft…..
Putin scurrying …..
Here’s what we know:
Residents in Russian-occupied territories said their homeland was being usurped by force in what they called a sham vote. Russia announced that some workers will be exempt from the draft.
Referendums in Russian-occupied Ukraine evoke fear, anger and defiance.
After businesses warn of repercussions, Russia says it will exempt some workers from the call-up.
Staged voting is happening amid international condemnation.
The referendums are taking place in areas from which large numbers of people have fled.
U.N. experts find that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.
Russian aviation scientist dies, adding to a series of suspicious deaths.
Russians fleeing the draft will not be welcomed in the Baltic States, Lithuania’s foreign minister says.
Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.
- The referendums on the prospect of joining Russia, illegal under international law, are set to last five days in Ukraine’s east and southeast: the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk territories in the east, Kherson in the south and occupied parts of nearby Zaporizhzhia. The move has drawn U.S. and European condemnation.
- The Kremlin pledged to swiftly accept the regions into Russia and said any Ukrainian attack would then be seen as an attack on Russia. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Moscow would consider Ukrainian attempts to retake the territory “as an attack on its lands in case of a positive decision in the referendums.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared his support for the process, with little doubt that the announced result will overwhelmingly favor becoming part of Russia. When the Kremlin annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after a disputed vote, it claimed that nearly 97 percent backed joining Russia.
- Kyiv attacked the legitimacy of the referendums as a “propaganda show.”
- Moscow-backed authorities assured support for a potential annexation. “We’re coming home,” Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said Friday. He appeared in a video filling out his ballot in the street, surrounded by cameras, before he displayed it for all to see. Russian news agencies said hundreds of polling stations would only open Tuesday, and local authorities said much of the voting would be house-to-house or in “public places.”
- The Group of Seven — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — released a joint statement condemning “the sham referenda that Russia attempts to use to create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory,” according to a White House release. President Biden said in a statement that the United States “will work with our allies and partners to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia.”
- U.N. Secretary General António Guterres described the referendums as a “violation of the U.N. Charter and international law.”
- Alexander J. Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh, the two Americans freed this week after months of captivity in Russian-occupied Ukraine, arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York just before noon Friday and were met by a State Department representative who whisked them through customs, according to Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt. The two men were photographed smiling upon their arrival, but they have been through an ordeal they have yet to detail in full to their relatives.
- Finland looks to cut off entry for Russian tourists in the coming days amid elevated border crossings after Putin’s partial mobilization order, according to state broadcaster Yle. Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders to most Russian citizens.
- A team of U.N. excerpts found Friday that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, including “rapes, deportations and torture,” the AP reported.
- Ukraine said it would revoke the accreditation of Iran’s ambassador for supplying weapons to Russia. In hisnightly address, Zelensky said the foreign ministry would also “significantly reduce the number of diplomatic personnel of the Iranian Embassy.”
- Moscow could use nuclear weapons to defend the regions that join Russia, said former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of the country’s Security Council. Washington for months has sent private warnings to Moscow about grave consequences if it used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, although it was unclear whether any messages were sent in recent days, The Washington Post reported.
- Several Iranian-made drones struck the port of Odessa on Friday, destroying an administrative building and killing one civilian, according to the Ukrainian military. Writing on Telegram, officials said that Odessa was attacked by “kamikaze drones from the sea,” adding that one Shahed-136 drone had been shot down.
- A drone had dropped an “exploding device” next to a government building in Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Friday. No injuries were reported. RIA did not say who dropped the device, and the information couldn’t be independently verified. But Mayor Ivan Fedorov said on his Telegram channel that a “loud explosion rang out in Melitopol” at 7 a.m., which could be “well felt” by people living in the center of the city. The drone could be seen flying over the city in unverified videos shared on social media.
- The U.N. nuclear watchdog said “detailed talks” about a safety zone at the Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine are underway. The International Atomic Energy Agency said its proposal sought to protect Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which Russian forces control. Fighting nearby has raised fears of a disaster….