- Ukraine says hundreds of collaborators face treason charges
- Fierce battles enter into final day of Russia referendum
- Russia conscription sparks protests, exodus
- Kremlin says no decision made on closing Russian border
Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Ukrainians who helped a Russia-backed referendum to annex swathes of the country will face treason charges and at least five Ukrainians as votes in four regions enter their final day, an adviser to Ukraine’s president said. years in prison.
“We have a list of people who are involved in some way,” Mihailo Podoljak, an adviser to the president, said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Blick.
“We are talking about hundreds of collaborators. They will be charged with treason. They will face at least five years in prison.”
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Podoljak said Ukrainians who were forced to vote would not be punished. Ukrainian officials reported that ballot boxes were taken from house to house and residents were forced to vote in front of Russian-backed security guards.
Moscow wants to annex the eastern and southern provinces of Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporozhye, which make up about 15 percent of Ukraine.
No province is entirely under Moscow’s control, and fighting has been ongoing across the front, with Ukrainian forces reporting more progress since they routed Russian forces in the fifth province, Kharkiv, earlier this month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has implicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory, which would include the four provinces if annexed.
Voting on whether to join Russia began in the region on Friday and is set to end on Tuesday, with Russia’s parliament likely to approve annexation within days.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday that Putin was likely to announce the addition of occupied Ukraine to the Russian Federation in a speech to parliament on September 9. 30. Read more
Kyiv and the West dismissed the referendum as a hoax and pledged not to acknowledge the result.
Ukrainian and Russian troops were locked in heavy fighting in different parts of Ukraine on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Donetsk region in the east remained his country’s and Russia’s top strategic priority, with fighting engulfing several towns as Russian troops tried to push south and west.
There have also been clashes in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, the focus of this month’s Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukrainian forces continued to move to halt operations on four bridges and other river crossings to disrupt supply lines for Russian troops in the south.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces Southern Command said on Tuesday that its counteroffensive in Kherson had cost the enemy 77 troops, six tanks, five howitzers, three air defenses and 14 armored vehicles.
Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield report.
In Russia, the call-up of some 300,000 reservists has sparked the first sustained protests since the invasion began, with one monitoring group estimating that at least 2,000 have been arrested so far. Public criticism of Russia’s “special military operations” is prohibited.
Flights out of Russia have sold out, cars have clogged border checkpoints, and queues have been reported for 48 hours at the only road border to Georgia, a rare pro-Western neighbor that allows Russian citizens visa-free entry.
Asked about the prospect of closing the border, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday: “I don’t know anything about it. At the moment, no decision has been made on it.”
Russia treats millions of former conscripts as official reservists. Because that part of Putin’s order was classified, authorities did not say exactly who would be called.
The mobilization also saw continued criticism of the authorities in state media for the first time since the war began.
But Sergei Tzekov, a senior lawmaker representing Russia’s annexed Crimea in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, told RIA Novosti: “Under the current circumstances, all persons of conscription age should be banned from travelling abroad.”
Two exiled news sites — Meduza and Novaya Gazeta Europe — both reported, citing unidentified officials, that authorities were planning to bar men from leaving.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Podoljak said his country was capable of countering Russian mobilization, with 700,000 people in reserve or in combat.
“We already have a well-positioned, experienced and effective army,” he said.
Moscow says it wants to get rid of Ukrainian nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Kyiv and the West have described Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.
Later on Monday, Zelensky described the military situation in Donetsk as “particularly serious.”
“We are doing everything we can to curb the enemy’s activities. This is our number one target now, because the Donbass are still the number one target of the occupiers,” he said, referring to Donetsk and Luhansk in the wider area within.
Russia has carried out at least five attacks on targets in the Odessa region using Iranian drones in the past few days, according to the regional government.
Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram that Russian missiles hit the airport in Zelensky’s hometown of Krivery in central Ukraine, destroying infrastructure and rendering the airport unusable.
The U.S. appears to be providing more money as negotiators on an interim spending bill in Congress agreed to nearly $12 billion in new military and economic aid to Ukraine, the sources said.read more
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Reporting in Reuters Bureau; Writing by Michael Perry and Costa Spitas; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
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