Natalia Gavrilița says 'nobody is safe' due to Russian annexation
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Terrified Ukrainians are fleeing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in the south of their country set to be annexed by Russia. Liubov Smyrnova, whose home in the village of Komyshuvakha in the Zaporizhzhia region was destroyed in May, told the BBC: “I think Putin’s politics is to destroy us. It’s a genocide of our people.”
She added: “We are under constant pressure. I can’t even describe it with words. Komyshuvakha is shelled almost every day.”
People fleeing to Ukrainian-held areas have been sharing their experiences of living under occupation and the referendums.
Convoys of people have been making hazardous journeys to relative safety.
Anton Osenev said the Russians tried to mobilise him twice to fight against his own country.
He told the BBC: “We weren’t home for the first attempt. On the second occasion they stayed at our house for some time… I still don’t understand what’s happening. We need some rest.”
Ukrainians have also described people being forced at gunpoint to mark ballots in the street by roving officials. Russian-installed officials have also taken ballot boxes from house to house with armed men in tow.
Meanwhile, at least 23 people were killed and 28 wounded in a Russian missile strike which hit a convoy of civilian vehicles on the outskirts of the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, according to the regional governor.
Oleksandr Starukh, the Zaporizhzhia regional governor, wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “So far, 23 dead and 28 wounded. All civilians.”
Police and emergency workers rushed to the scene of the missile strike, the impact of which threw chunks of dirt into the air and sprayed vehicles with shrapnel. The windows of the vehicles – mostly cars and three vans – were blown out.
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The vehicles were packed with occupants’ belongings, blankets and suitcases. An eyewitness reported seeing a body leaning from the driver’s seat into the passenger seat of a yellow car, his left hand still clutching the steering wheel.
Plastic sheets were draped over the bodies of a woman and young man in another car. A dead cat lay next to the young man in the rear seat.
A woman who gave her name as Nataliya said she and her husband had been visiting their children in Zaporizhzhia.
She said: “We were returning to my mother who is 90 years old. We have been spared. It’s a miracle.”
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Putin will preside over a treaty-signing on the entry of new territories into the Russian Federation three days after the completion of hastily staged referendums.
Moscow’s proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99 percent in favour of joining Russia.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardise prospects for peace.
Secretary General Guterres said: “Any decision to proceed with the annexation … would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned.”
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering major setbacks on the battlefield this month and amid discontent in Russia over a widely criticised partial mobilisation.
A Ukrainian official said Mr Zelensky has promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defence and security chiefs for an emergency meeting today (September 30) where “fundamental decisions” will be taken.
On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected. It was his first public acknowledgment it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but which has often appeared oblivious to individual service records, health, student status or even age.
At today’s event, Putin is expected to give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia which Russian forces occupy.
Russian government officials have said the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into their country. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose extra sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan. Even some of Russia’s closest allies, including Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognise the move.
A political adviser to the Ukrainian president said on Thursday Russia’s plans to annex Ukrainian territory “does not make legal sense” and denounced what he called a Kremlin freak show.
Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter: “‘Kremlin freak show’. The announced ‘entrance ceremony’ does not make any legal sense. Non-existent entities cannot enter a country which is disintegrating. Do not waste time on the virtual [Russian]-agenda. Real life will be more interesting: counteroffensive, de-occupation, tribunal.”
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