Voting Begins in Sham; Traffic Snarls at Russian Borders

Kyiv: Voting began Friday in Moscow-held regions of Ukraine on referendums to become part of Russia, Russian-backed officials there said. The Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as shams without any legal force, are seen as a step toward annexing the territories by Russia.

The votes are being held in the Luhansk, partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. In Kherson, which is almost fully controlled by Moscow, the balloting was also expected to get underway on Friday morning.

Russia and Ukraine faced off Thursday at a Security Council meeting. Top diplomats from nations at war were in the same room exchanging barbs and accusations, albeit not directly to each other.

At the meeting, the United States called on other nations to tell Russia to stop making nuclear threats and end “the horror” of its war. Moscow repeated its frequent claims that Kyiv has long oppressed Russian speakers in Ukraine’s east one of the explanations Vladimir Putin’s government has offered for the invasion.

At the battle grounds Russia’s military fired nine missiles on the city of Zaporizhzhia, hitting a hotel and a power station, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh confirmed. On the eve of the referendums planned explosions shook southeastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in Russia traffic surged at border crossings with Finland and Georgia as draft-age Russians flee to escape conscription. Georgia is one of the few neighbouring countries that Russians can enter without needing to apply for a visa. Finland, which shares a 1,300km (800 mile) border with Russia, does require a visa for travel, and also reported an increase in traffic overnight.

Other destinations reachable by air – such as Istanbul, Belgrade or Dubai – have seen ticket prices skyrocket immediately after the military call-up was announced, with some destinations sold out completely.

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