On June 23, head of the pro-Russian administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, collaborator Yevhen Balitskyi, signed a decree to establish an election commission for holding a referendum on absorbing Zaporizhzhia into Russia.

“I signed a decree on establishing the election commission in the Zaporizhzhia region to help express people’s will,” Balitskyi wrote on his Telegram channel.

So-called referendums on the status of the occupied territories in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions are expected to be held on the same day, as reported by Balitskyi and Russian media.

According to Russian media outlet TASS, an election commission for the referendum is being created in the Kherson region. Russian occupiers have scheduled the supposed “expression of will” for the first half of September. The Ukrainian Center for National Resistance earlier confirmed that the Russian government had scheduled a “referendum” for September 11.

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On July 20, the Minister of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, warned residents of the occupied territories against participating in “pseudo-referendums” organized by the Russian military.

“I want to urge everyone currently in the temporarily occupied territory to decide for themselves what position to take – not to go to any “referendums,” not to take any Russian or other pseudo-passports. And not to cooperate with the occupied authorities.” Vereshchuk said on national TV.

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She pointed out that the Criminal Code stipulates certain conditions and responsibilities for such referendums, and the government is currently working on expanding the legislation.

Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has taken control of most of the Kherson region, the regional center, and a large part of the Zaporizhzhia region. However, the city of Zaporizhzhia itself remains under Ukrainian control.

Representatives of the occupying Russian administration in Kherson have stated several times that they expect the region to be annexed by Russia.

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Back in February, Moscow originally stated that annexing territory was not the goal of the “special operation” in Ukraine.

However, on July 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that the geographic objectives of fighting in Ukraine had changed. “This is far from being only about the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. It is also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region, and a number of other territories,” Lavrov said.

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly indicated that they are not prepared to agree to territorial concessions following Russia’s war.

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