Russia: Moscow stages local elections in occupied parts of Ukraine

Russian-installed authorities began holding regional elections on Thursday in parts of Ukraine Russia claimed as its own last year, seeking to cement Moscow’s authority in what it calls its “new territories” despite the ongoing conflict.
Russia does not control any of the four regions where the votes are being held – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Along with Crimea – annexed by Moscow in 2014 – they make up almost a fifth of Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say elections are illegal and show why it is impossible to hold any peace talks with Moscow until Russia withdraws all its troops from Ukrainian territory.
In all four regions, Moscow’s handpicked governors are seeking full terms of office in the polls, which conclude on September 10, when Russia holds regional polls. The governors are all running with Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s endorsement having joined the Kremlin’s United Russia bloc with fanfare in recent months and they face only nominal opposition.
Mariupol saw electoral officials set up a temporary polling booth on Thursday in the courtyard of a residential complex. A trickle of residents came out to cast their ballots, showing newly-distributed Russian passports to officials while police officers stood by.
Voting also began on Thursday in the Zaporizhzhia region, whose Russian-installed governor Yevgeny Balitsky held talks with Putin in August shown on state television in which he said said the province would return an emphatically pro-Kremlin vote.

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