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Politicians from Kherson: “Difficult to refuse to vote”

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Sham referendums have begun in eastern Ukraine – and the people there are being forced to take part, reports the deputy head of the regional parliament Sobolevskyj in the daily topics. There can be no question of a free vote.

daily topics: What do you hear from Cherson, how the Russian occupiers are now trying to get people to vote?

Yuriy Sobolevskyi: De facto, absurd theater is being played out in Cherson and in all areas – and the Russian government calls it a “referendum”. People are forced to vote: they are supposed to go to the polling stations and the occupying power has only opened a few polling stations. They’re just there to create the image that people would go willingly. But people don’t go. So the occupiers are forced to go to people’s homes to get them to vote.

To person

Yuriy Sobolevskyi is deputy chairman of the Kherson regional parliament. He fled the Russian occupation of the region and is staying outside of Kherson for security reasons.

daily topics: How should we imagine this compulsion to vote? What information do you have about this?

Sobolevskyj: They go door to door – usually in pairs – and have a ballot box and ballot papers. There are also armed soldiers from the Russian National Guard. You watch the whole thing. Under such conditions, when a person’s home is visited, it is extremely difficult to refuse to vote. No one knows what reaction would follow.

Jurij Sobolevskyj, deputy Chairman of the Kherson regional administration, about the situation there in the mock referendum

daily topics 9:45 p.m., 23.9.2022

“Each individual case is examined”

daily topics: Do you think there are still people in Kherson who think pro-Russian, who collaborate with the occupation?

Sobolevskyj: Yes, in Kherson there are people who collaborate. But their number is really minimal when compared to the total population. That is why the invaders were forced to leave Crimea (Annexed by Russia in violation of international law in 2014, editor’s note) or to get people from the Russian Federation. After all, you have relocated your own forces to the areas, and they have the entire infrastructure there (the occupier, editor’s note) have built up. Most residents of the Kherson region are Ukrainian patriots and are waiting for the liberation of their own territories.

daily topics: Ukraine has now announced high penalties: Anyone who takes part in such compulsory voting or even organizes or finances it could be prosecuted for treason or violation of territorial integrity. Is that the right way to go if they have to assume that people will be forced to vote?

Sobolevskyj: If someone took part in this voting under duress, then they will be considered non-offending and will not be punished. It is seen as simply being done to save life and health. Legally, these people are absolutely clean. People who took part in this show are punished – for example, they went to polling stations voluntarily. That is then the task of the investigative authorities: they examine and examine each individual case.

Escape from Cherson hardly possible

daily topics: What about those who want to flee the occupied territories? It was dangerous before, but is it still possible now?

Sobolevskyj: This is extremely difficult. I would like to remind you that during the entire occupation, there was not a single humanitarian corridor that the Russian Federation would allow us to evacuate people and bring in humanitarian aid.

There is a route via Zaporizhia – but this route is extremely difficult and the conditions that the Russian Federation has created there are simply inhumane: you are on the road in the middle of nowhere for several days, waiting until you can actually go one step further . And recently there is information that young men of military age are no longer allowed to leave the areas.

The interview was conducted by Caren Miosga for the daily topics. The interview was slightly adapted for the written version.