By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Kyiv has warned Ukrainian citizens not to participate in local elections in Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine, calling them “a sham.” With their new Russian passports in their hands, people in eastern Ukraine vote in regional and municipal elections, which the West has condemned.
“I came to vote to fulfill my civic duty. We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. We need to vote for those fit to rule our region,” a man said, defending his decision to cast ballots.
A woman agreed, saying: “I came to vote for people who can help us through the process of joining Russia.”
Yet Kyiv and its allies view the ballots as an attempt by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to increase his authority over territories he illegally annexed from Ukraine in the ongoing Russian invasion.
Critics say many candidates aren’t even from local areas but were installed there by Russia’s pro-Kremlin United Russia party, including even from far away Siberia.
Governors handpicked by Moscow are seeking full terms in office in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Ukrainian officials have warned people not to participate, saying any Ukrainian citizens involved in organizing the elections can expect to be punished in the future.
And Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has called the polls in Russian-occupied areas a “sham,” saying the votes would not have any legal standing.
ANGRY AT CRITICISM
He earlier condemned Western officials who criticized the perceived slow Ukrainian counteroffensive to recapture these territories. “Criticizing the slow phase of the counteroffensive equals spitting into the face of the Ukrainian soldier who sacrifices his life every day moving forward and liberating one kilometer of Ukrainian soil after another,” he said.
“I would recommend all critics to shut up, come to Ukraine, and try to liberate one square centimeter by themselves,” the minister added on the sidelines of a European Union foreign ministers meeting in Toledo, Spain.
However his comments come as Ukraine faces relentless Russian attacks.
This week, some of the victims of a deadly Russian strike at a busy market in eastern Ukraine were buried. Authorities say at least 17 people were killed and 32 wounded in the attack in Kostiantynivka, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Attacks include nightly drone strikes targeting River Danube ports, threatening to choke off one of Kyiv’s economic lifelines.
Explosions in and around the inland ports of Reni and Izmail already severely disrupted grain supplies, with officials saying more than 270,000 tonnes of grain had been destroyed during these attacks.
Despite setbacks, Ukraine says it has started exporting grain via Croatian seaports, aiming to broaden its export routes while Russia blocks its Black Sea ports.
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