Ukrainians fear the consequences of the referendum results and a drone strike hits Odessa
An overnight drone strike near the Ukrainian port of Odessa sparked a massive fire and explosion, the military said on Monday.
The airstrike was the latest in a series of drone attacks on the key southern city in recent days. It hit a military installation and detonated ammunition when it hit. Firefighters were struggling to contain the blaze, the Ukrainian army’s southern command said.
Concerns are growing that Russia could seek to escalate the conflict once it completes what Ukraine and the West see as illegal referendums in parts of Ukraine under its control.
The vote, which ends on Tuesday, took place after thousands of residents fled and included images of armed Russian troops going door to door to pressure Ukrainians to vote. Russia is widely expected to proclaim the results in its favor, a step that could see Moscow annexing the territory and giving it a pretext to seek to defend it as its own territory under the Russian nuclear umbrella.
Many residents fled the regions before the referendums began, fearing they would be forced to vote or possibly drafted into the Russian military.
Petro Kobernik, who left the Russian-held southern city of Kherson just before the predestined vote began on Friday, said the prospect of living under Russian law and the escalating war made him and others, extremely nervous about the future.
« The situation is changing rapidly and people are afraid of being injured either by the Russian army or by Ukrainian guerrillas and advancing Ukrainian troops, » Kobernik, 31, told The Associated Press during a briefing. telephone interview.
As some Russian officials brought ballots to neighborhoods accompanied by armed police, Kobernik said his 70-year-old father locked the door to his private home in the village of Novotroitske – part of Kherson – and swore to don’t let anyone in.
The Kremlin has used this tactic before. In 2014, he organized a hastily organized referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region to justify the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, a move denounced as illegitimate by most of the world.
The Moscow-appointed governor of the southern Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, vowed that Ukrainian attempts to derail the referendum by bombing the city would not succeed.
« It’s complicated because of the security issues, but everything will be done to make the ballot safe for voters and election officials, » Saldo said in a video address. « People are waiting to join Russia and want it to happen as soon as possible. »
Many locals tell a different story.
« The streets are empty because people are staying at home, » Marina Irkho, a 38-year-old resident of the port city of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, said by telephone. « Nobody wants them to declare us part of Russia and start rounding up our men. »
Russian shoots officer at Siberian military center
The Kremlin last week announced a partial mobilization to add at least 300,000 troops to its force in Ukraine ahead of elections in occupied areas.
The move, which marked a sea change from previous efforts by Vladimir Putin to frame the war as a limited military operation that would not interfere with the lives of most Russians, proved hugely unpopular in the country.
Thousands of combat-age men flocked to airports and land border crossings across Russia to avoid being called out. Demonstrations erupted in various parts of the country, and Russian media reported a growing number of arson attacks on military enlistment offices.
Tensions rose Monday morning when a young man showed up at a military enlistment office in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk and shot the military commander at close range.
Russian media claimed the man entered the facility saying ‘No one is going to fight’ and ‘We are all going home now’. Local authorities said the military commander was in intensive care in « extremely serious » condition.
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The man, identified in the media as 25-year-old local resident Ruslan Zinin, was reportedly upset that a notice of appeal had been served on his best friend who had no combat experience – which, according to the authorities, is the main criteria of the project.
Irkutsk regional governor Igor Kobzev wrote on the Telegram messaging app that the head of the project office was hospitalized in critical condition and the detained shooter « will be absolutely punished. »
According to the British military, the first batches of mobilized reservists have already started arriving at Russian military bases.
In an online intelligence briefing, the UK Ministry of Defense said « several tens of thousands » had been called up. However, the Russians face challenges ahead.
“Unlike most Western armies, the Russian military provides low-level initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than dedicated training establishments,” the Brits said.
Under normal circumstances, two battalions deploy while a third remains in place for training. But in the Ukrainian war, even the third battalion is deploying, undermining that training, the British said.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, a Russian rocket attack targeted a village in the southeast of the country. The attack hit an unnamed village and the regional center of Zaporizhzhia, regional military official Oleksandr Starukh said online.
He posted photos of damaged buildings and said unspecified infrastructure was also damaged and fires were started by the attack.