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Soldiers go door-to-door for votes in 'referendums'

By James Waterhouse in Ukraine, Paul Adams and Merlyn Thomas in London BBC News Ukrainians have reported armed soldiers going door-to-door in occupied parts of the country to collect votes for self-styled "referendums" on joining Russia."You have to answer verbally and the soldier marks the answer on the sheet and keeps it," one woman in Enerhodar told the BBC.In southern Kherson, Russian guardsmen stood with a ballot box in the middle of the city to collect peoples votes.The door-to-door voting is for "security", Russian state media says."In-person voting will take place exclusively on 27 September," Tass reported. "On the other days, voting will be organised in communities and in a door-to-door manner."One woman in Melitopol told the BBC that two local "collaborators" arrived with two Russian soldiers at her parents flat, to give them a ballot to sign."My dad put no [to joining Russia]," the woman said. "My mum stood nearby, and asked what would happen for putting no. They said, Nothing. "Mum is now worried that the Russians will persecute them."The woman also said there was one ballot for the entire apartment block building, rather than per person.Although the evidence is anecdotal, the presence of armed men conducting the vote contradicts Moscows insistence that this is a free or fair process.Experts say the self-styled referendums, taking place across five days, will allow Russia to claim - illegally - four occupied or partially-occupied regions of Ukraine as their own. In other words, a false vote on annexation, seven months into Russias invasion. The self-styled "annexation" could lead to Russia claiming that its territory is under attack from Western weapons supplied to Ukraine, which could escalate the war further.British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, said the UK had evidence that Russian officials had already set targets for "invented voter turnouts and approval rates for these sham referenda".Mr Cleverly said Russia planned to formalise the annexation of the four regions - Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia - by the end of the month.A source in Kherson told the BBC there was no public effort to encourage voting, apart from an announcement on the Russian news agency that people can vote at a port building, which had been disused for 10 years. Another woman in Kherson said she saw "armed militants" outside the building where the vote seemed to be taking place. She pretended to forget her passport, so she didnt have to vote.The woman said all her friends and family were against the referendum. "We dont know how our life will be after this referendum," she said. "It is very difficult to understand what they want to do."Kyiv says the referendums will change nothing, and its forces will continue to push to liberate all of the territories.This video can not be playedWatch: Sped-up footage appears to show large queues at the Russia-Georgia borderMeanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putins recent mobilisation of at least 300,000 extra troops has caused many Russian men of fighting age to flee. One young Russian man who left St Petersburg for Kazakhstan to avoid the draft told BBC World Services Outside Source programme that that most of his friends were also on the move."Right now, I feel like its a total collapse. I know only maybe one or two folks that dont think about exile right now," he said.He said some, like him, are travelling across the border, whereas others have gone to small Russian villages to hide. "The big problem of Russia is that we didnt think about the war in Ukraine in February as we think about it right now," he said.Source: TassWhat Russia wants from the votes in occupied Ukraine Russia reveals exemptions as men flee call-up Soldiers go door-to-door for votes in referendums Iran grapples with most serious challenge in years Hurricane Fiona lashes Bermuda, heads to Canada Whats happening in Russia now is total fear Weekly quiz: Which planet was seen in new images? Subway stalker murder sparks fury in Seoul Brazil candidates dance and cry. Video Brazil candidates dance and cry Italys far right cash in on cost of living crisis The firms making flour from mushrooms and cauliflower Dreams of Europe: A migrants journey across Africa. Video Dreams of Europe: A migrants journey across Africa Aboriginal Australians: Could the Queen have done more? Iranian morality officer: Why we tell women what to wear Why Hollywood failed Generation Z Whats the right age to get a phone? The number one soft skill to hone.

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