December 6, 2022

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Zelensky believes Putin’s nuclear threats “could be real.”

According to Ukrainian officials, Russia wants to employ Ukrainians in the occupied territories

A group voted at a hospital in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on September 24. Referendums to join Russia are illegal under international law and have been branded a “farce” by Western and Kiev governments. (Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials say Russia is using so-called secession referendums in the occupied territories of four Ukrainian regions as a pretext for conscripting Ukrainians into the Russian army.

“The main goal of the fake referendum is to mobilize our residents and use them as cannon fodder,” Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol, said in a Telegram.

Ukrainian officials also say it has become more difficult for young people to travel outside occupied Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial demobilization. Although these journeys are difficult in southern Ukraine, they are possible through organized corridors.

However, CNN understands that in recent days, it has become more difficult for Ukrainian government officials to travel into Ukrainian-controlled territory and that official corridors have been closed.

Ukraine’s Center for National Resistance, a unit of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, said last week that the Russian military plans to mobilize once “referendums” on joining the Russian Federation are approved.

“It is clear that after the polls the enemy will announce mobilization in the occupied territories as well because it needs human resources,” the opposition center said in a statement.

The Ukrainian government says the Russian occupation administrations are working with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to prepare a list of thousands of people to be mobilized in the Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhia and Kherson.

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In Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which is almost entirely occupied by Russia and Russian-backed forces, Ukrainian authorities in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic have already engaged in widespread conscription.

“Unlike what is happening in the Russian Federation, mobilization is partial, everyone is caught up in the so-called RPL,” Ukrainian head of the military administration of the Luhansk region Serhii Haydey said in a telegram.

“For example, in Swato, call orders are issued to all males over the age of 18,” Hayde said. “Some people, such as truck drivers, are immediately sent to military units without training because there are no reinforcements to send to the front lines.”

In occupied Crimea, annexed in 2014, Russia is specifically targeting ethnic Tatars and forcing them to leave the peninsula, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said over the weekend.

“Russia is trying to destroy the gene pool of the Crimean Tatars,” he said. “They take men from 18.”

“They are forcing people from temporarily occupied territories to fight,” Zelensky told CBS in an interview that aired Sunday. “A lot of people will be forced to do that.”

Crimean Tatars – deported en masse from the peninsula by Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1944 – have faced severe discrimination since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, rights groups say.

Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol, urged the residents of the occupied city to go to the Crimea. He said travel between southern Ukraine and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, was only occasionally possible.

“Now they are allowed, but before departure they provide all personal data and residence of all relatives,” said Fedorov. “We urge our residents to travel through temporarily occupied Crimea to Georgia or the European Union. We clearly understand that a full-scale hunt to use our men as cannon fodder will begin very soon.”

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