Ukraine: Moscow prepares annexation, Russians flee mobilization

Ukraine: Moscow prepares annexation, Russians flee mobilization

Under fire from international criticism, Russia on Thursday prepared for Friday’s scheduled annexation votes in four regions of Ukraine, while many Russians left their country to avoid a possible mobilization on the Ukrainian front.

Russia, through the voice of its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, was supposed to defend its annexation project and its invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council the day after Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists on Wednesday and threatened to use nuclear weapons.

Back then, while addressing the UN panel in the presence of the head of Russian diplomacy, American Antony Blinken hammered out that the world “cannot let Putin get away”.

In Russia, the announcement of the mobilization caused an influx of Russians wanting to leave the country, with queues at the land borders with several countries. An estimate of the number was not available.

A person who had crossed Mongolia told AFP on condition of anonymity that he had to wait “12 hours” to cross the border by car.

Finnish border guards say they are seeing an increase in crossings, but it remains moderate. Russians need visas to get there.

While Poland and the Baltic states have taken measures to drastically limit Russian entry into their territories in recent weeks, Germany on Thursday agreed to take in deserters from the Russian army who were threatened with “severe repression”.

“Anyone who courageously opposes Putin and thus puts themselves in great danger can apply for political asylum in Germany,” said Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

Upon arrival at Yerevan airport in Armenia, Russians interviewed by AFP admitted fleeing mobilization. Dmitri, 45, carries a small bag and says he left his wife and children behind.

“I don’t want to die in this senseless war. It’s a fratricidal war,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The day before, more than 1,300 people had been arrested at improvised anti-mobilization demonstrations across Russia, according to the NGO OVD-Info.

The Kremlin denied the extent of the departures, a “greatly exaggerated” phenomenon.

– “sham” referendums –

From Friday to Tuesday, four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine controlled in whole or in part by Moscow will take part in elections organized in an emergency to be annexed by Russia, “simulacra” of referendums denounced in the West . China, which is close to Moscow, has voiced criticism and called for respect for states’ territorial integrity.

The pro-Russian authorities installed in these areas and Moscow have nevertheless promised to move forward.

“Voting starts tomorrow and nothing can prevent it,” Vladimir Saldo, head of the occupation administration for the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, told Russian television.

The electoral body of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk in the east said the election would be held almost door-to-door “in front of the houses” for four days “for security reasons”, with polling stations not opening until “the last day”, that is September 27th.

Former Russian President and number two on the country’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, told him via telegram that the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk (east), which make up the Donbass basin, and Kherson and Zaporizhia (south), “will integrate Russia “.

He added that his country is ready for a nuclear strike on the West if necessary: ​​”Russian hypersonic missiles are capable of hitting their targets in Europe and the United States much faster” than Western weapons.

– Putin relative freed –

Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation on Wednesday that he was ready to use “any means” against the West, which he accused of wanting to “destroy” Russia. “It’s not a bluff,” he blurted out.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was “de facto confronted with the NATO bloc” over Western military aid to Ukraine.

Moscow, therefore, unsurprisingly remains deaf to criticism, beginning with that of American Joe Biden, who insisted on Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly that Putin’s war is “destroying Ukraine’s right to exist.”

After him, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the world to “punish” Russia.

Frenchman Emmanuel Macron urged him to resist “blackmail” by Vladimir Putin: “Our duty is to hold our line”.

Rockets continued to rain down on the ground, with nine rockets hitting the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporijjia (south), among others, hitting a hotel in particular, killing at least one person.

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk have accused Kyiv of firing at a market, killing seven people, with local media circulating images of a charred bus and a bloodied corpse in the street.

In addition, Russia has confirmed a large exchange of 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war for 55 Russian soldiers, as well as a close friend of Vladimir Putin, former deputy and Ukrainian businessman Viktor Medvedchuk.

This former MP was arrested in Ukraine in mid-April on suspicion of high treason in favor of Moscow.


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