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If Russia holds a referendum vote in Kherson, which borders Russia-annexed Crimea, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update on Saturday, “it would almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favor of leaving Ukraine.”
Russian forces captured the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson in early March, but they have not committed atrocities against civilians as they have in other regions of Ukraine, according to the Associated Press. Locals suspect that they survived because Russia has its own plan to hold a mock referendum to turn the region into a “Kherson People’s Republic” like the pro-Russian separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
In April, President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the residents of occupied Kherson about Russia’s plan to hold an orderly referendum. And he warned them not to protect their personal data from vote rigging attempts. “This is a fact. Watch out,” he said.
Russia’s imposed military-civilian administration in Kherson has announced that it will ask Russia to incorporate Kherson into the Russian Federation, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
A British intelligence update stated that “a central part of Russia’s original invasion plan was very likely to use rigged referendums to place the majority of Ukraine under a long-standing pro-Russian authority.”
“The fact that Russia only succeeded in imposing a local pro-Russian leadership in Kherson highlights the failure of the Russian invasion to make progress toward its political goals in Ukraine.”
Russian troops occupied the city hall in Kherson, and lowered the Ukrainian flag. The Russians replaced the mayor with whomever they appointed last month.
However, citizens of Kherson will likely continue to show their opposition to the Russian occupation, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
The fake election tactic has been used before. In 2014, the disputed referendum in Crimea amid Russian annexation was widely believed to be fake, with results showing that nearly 97% of voters supported joining Russia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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