Kiev threatens punishment for voting on joining Russia
Ukrainian citizens may face lengthy prison terms if they take part in public referendums on whether to join Russia, which are to be held in the Donbass republics and Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told local media on Tuesday.
Speaking to Ukrainian outlet Strana, Vereshchuk, who is also in charge of the “reintegration of temporarily occupied territories,” urged local residents not to take part in the referendums.
She warned that those who organize the voting would face “a prison term of five to ten years” and could be barred from being employed in certain positions or engaging in certain activities for up to 15 years. According to Vereshchuk, their assets could also be seized.
Vereshchuk signaled that even ordinary Ukrainians may be punished for attending polling stations.
“This [may] mean imprisonment for up to five years. So, once again I strongly advise residents of the temporarily occupied territories: do not take a [Russian] passport, do not go to referendums, do not cooperate with the occupiers and leave, if it’s possible,” the official stated.
Last week, the Ukrainian government proposed legislation that would impose a prison sentence of up to 15 years on its citizens for obtaining a Russian passport.
On Tuesday, the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, as well as Russian-controlled Kherson and Zaporozhye regions announced that they would hold referendums on whether to join Russia from 23-27 September.