A Kremlin-orchestrated referendum got underway Friday in occupied regions of Ukraine that sought to make them part of Russia, with some officials carrying ballots to apartment blocks accompanied by gun-toting police.
Kyiv and the West condemned it as a rigged election whose result was preordained by Moscow.
Meanwhile, in a grim reminder of the brutality of the 7-month-old invasion, U.N. experts and Ukrainian officials pointed to new evidence of Russian war crimes.
Kharkiv region officials said a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium held hundreds of bodies, including at least 30 displaying signs of torture.
The referendums in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions were widely seen as a prelude to Moscow annexing the regions.
The voting, which was overseen by authorities installed by Russia, is scheduled to run through Tuesday and is almost certain to go the Kremlin’s way.
Authorities in the Kherson region said residents of a small Moscow-controlled area of the neighboring Mykolaiv province also will be able to vote, and that small area was “incorporated” into Kherson until all of Mykolaiv is taken over by Russian forces.
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