A voter fills in documents at a polling station during a referendum in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Reuters
The five-day voting, in which residents are asked whether they want their regions to become part of Russia, has been anything but free or fair. Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the regions amid the war, and images shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.
The balloting on Tuesday was held at polling stations.
The Kremlin is expected to move immediately to absorb the regions once the voting is over, with President Vlaidmir Putin expected to declare their incorporation into Russia later this week.
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during a referendum in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Reuters
Russian media also speculated that Putin may follow up on last week's order of partial mobilization by declaring martial law and shutting the nation's borders for all men of fighting age.
The mobilisation has triggered a massive exodus of men from the country, fueled protests in many regions across Russia and sparked occasional acts of violence. On Monday, a gunman opened fire in an enlistment office in a Siberian city and gravely wounded the local chief military recruitment officer. The shooting came after scattered arson attacks on enlistment offices.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday once again decried the Russian mobilization as nothing more than "an attempt to provide commanders on the ground with a constant stream of cannon fodder.”
Leonid Pasechnik, leader of self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic speaks to journalists in Luhansk. AP
Zelensky vowed that the Ukrainian military will push efforts to take back "the entire territory of Ukraine,” and has drawn up plans to counter "new types of weapons” used by Russia.
Putin has warned that once the Russia-held regions are absorbed, Moscow will defend its territory with "all available means," including nuclear weapons, raising fears of a sharp escalation of the seven-month conflict.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said Russia would pay a high, if unspecified, price if it made good on veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
"If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” he told NBC.
People receive their ballots at a polling station in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Reuters
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that Putin had told Türkiye’s president last week that Moscow was ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine but had "new conditions” for a cease-fire.
Even as the voting has continued in Russia-held areas, Russian forces have kept up their strikes across Ukraine. Overnight, Russian missile attacks targeted the southern areas of Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv, damaging residential buildings and other sites, officials said.
Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy posted photographs of the charred shell of a four-story building and rescuers searching rubble. In a later Facebook post, he said many Russian soldiers and some local residents also were killed during the fighting on Sunday.
Kathy Lueders, who heads the agency's human spaceflight program, told reporters on a call that operations on the research platform were proceeding "nominally" and "we're not getting any indications at a working level that our counterparts are not committed."
"The real toll is likely to be much higher," Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office (OHCHR), told a briefing, adding that 253 of the casualties were in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
"Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed after Tuesday's bloodshed on the central square in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and the deadly bombing of a TV tower in the capital.
Sheikh Mohammed also tweeted, “The ‘The Most Beautiful Winter in the World” campaign, which we launch annually, achieved an increase in domestic tourism by 36% in 2021, reaching 1.3 million domestic tourists. Its people... and this year's motto is "Our heritage"... to spread the values of the most beautiful people.
The announcement of their abolition came a day after Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said that "both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue)" of whether the law requiring women to cover their heads needs to be changed.
Sheikha Bodour was astonished to find out that only one woman had presided over the International Publishers Association since its inception in 1896