Kyiv, Ukraine – On Saturday, Russian forces launched new strikes on Ukrainian cities as Kremlin-organized votes were held in four occupied regions to create an excuse for their annexation by Moscow.

In cities all over Russia, police arrested hundreds of people who tried protest against mobilization an order to strengthen the country’s troops in Ukraine. Other Russians volunteered while the Foreign Minister told the UN General Assembly about his country I had no choice but take military action against the neighbor.

Ukraine’s presidential bureau reported that the last Russian shelling killed at least three people and injured 19. Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian governor of Zaporizhia, one of the regions where Moscow officials held referendums on joining Russia, said a Russian missile hit the building housing in the region’s capital, killing one person and injuring seven others.

Ukraine and its Western allies they say that the referenda in Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south and in the eastern oblasts of Lugansk and Donetsk have no legal force. They claimed that the vote was an unlawful attempt by Moscow to seize Ukrainian territory that stretched from the Russian border to the Crimean peninsula.

Lugansk governor Serhiy Haidai said the vote “looked more like a gunshot poll,” adding that Moscow-backed local authorities sent an armed escort to accompany election officials and remove the names of those who voted against joining Russia.

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, called on Ukrainians in the occupied regions to challenge referenda and share information about the people involved in “this farce”. He also called on Russian recruits to sabotage and desert from the military should they be called in as part of a partial military mobilization, President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday.

“If you get into the Russian army, you sabotage any enemy activity, you obstruct any Russian actions, provide us with all important information about the occupiers – their bases, quarters, ammunition warehouses,” said Zelenskiy.

Putin signed a hastily approved bill on Saturday that tightens penalties for soldiers who fail to follow the orders of their officers, desert or surrender to the enemy.

To hold the referenda that began on Friday, election officials, accompanied by policemen, carried the ballot papers home and set up mobile polling stations, citing security concerns. Voting is due to end on Tuesday.

“Half of the population fled the Donetsk region because of Russian terror and constant shelling, voting against Russia with their feet, and the other half were deceived and scared,” said Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

In the Ukrainian capital, about 100 people from the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, which is part of the Donetsk Oblast, gathered to protest against the referendum, covering themselves with Ukrainian flags and carrying posters “Mariupol is Ukraine”.

“They ruined the city, killed thousands of people, and now they are doing some kind of profanation there,” said Vladyslav Kildishov, who helped organize the rally.

21-year-old Elina Sytkova, a demonstrator whose many relatives remained in Mariupol despite the city having spent months under att*ck, said the vote was “an illusion of a choice when there is none.”

It’s “like a joke because it is the same as in Crimea, which means it is false and untrue,” she said, referring to the 2014 referendum held in Crimea prior to Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula by Moscow on the move. which most of the world declared illegal.

Mobilization ordered by Putin it marked a sharp departure from his efforts to recognize the Seven Months War as a “special military operation” that did not interfere with the lives of most Russians.

Russian police moved quickly to break up anti-mobilization demonstrations in several cities across Russia on Saturday. the arrest of over 700 people. More than 1,300 protesters had been arrested during the previous wave of protests on Wednesday, and many of them immediately received a summons.

Russian leader and defense minister Sergei Shoigu said the order was for reservists who had recently served or had special abilities, but almost every man was considered a reservist up to the age of 65, and Putin’s decree left the door open to a wider appointment.

The Russian ministry said the partial mobilization was initially aimed at adding around 300,000 troops to strengthen the overwhelming voluntary force in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government stopped allowing most men aged 18-60 to leave the country immediately after Russia invaded on February 24 under a general mobilization order to build a military of one million.

In 11 time zones of Russia, the men hugged their crying family members before being called to serve for fear that there may be a broader call. Some media reports claimed that the Russian authorities planned to mobilize over a million recruits, which the Kremlin has denied.

To allay public concerns about a call that could weaken Putin’s power, the authorities announced that many Russians working in high-tech, communications or finance would be tax-exempt.

After some pilots of the Russian carrier Aeroflot and other airlines reportedly received summons, pilots and traffic controllers swiftly acted to obtain the government’s promise that they, too, would be excluded from mobilization.

Lots of Russian men purchased infrequent and exorbitant airfares out of the country when rumors were circulating about the impending border closure. Thousands of others escaped by car, creating lines of hours or even days of traffic at certain borders. The mass exodus highlighted the unpopularity of the war and fueled public outrage.

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As a sign that the Kremlin began to worry about the reaction, the head of the leading state-owned television station sharply criticized the military authorities for rushing out random people to meet mobilization goals rather than summoning people with specific skills and recent military service. as Putin promised.

RT head Margarita Simonyan att*cked military conscription offices for “driving people crazy” by capturing those who were not to be drafted into the army. “It’s as if Kyiv ordered them to do that,” she said.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed regional leader of Chechnya, who sent his forces to fight in Ukraine and repeatedly called for more severe action, suggested that Moscow should involve law enforcement personnel more widely in the fight.

He denounced those fleeing mobilization as cowards and argued that the police and various paramilitary agencies, which together with the military totaled 5 million people, would create a much better trained and motivated combat force.

“If we leave 50 percent of the staff to fulfill their duties, 2.5 million others will blow out any Western army and we will not need reservists,” Kadyrov said.

Putin’s mobilization order followed a swift Ukrainian counter-offensive that … forced Moscow to retreat from the vast swaths of the Northeast Kharkiv region, a humiliating defeat that exposed flaws in Moscow’s military plans.

The Ministry of Defense informed on Saturday about the resignation of General Dmitry Bulgakov from the post of deputy defense minister responsible for logistics. He did not mention the reason for his departure, but the move was widely viewed as a punishment for failing to support operations in Ukraine.

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