With Russia laying the groundwork to formally annex areas it is occupying, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine directly asked Ukrainians to help the nation’s war effort even from within the occupied territory.
Russian-backed officials in eastern and southern Ukraine continued carrying out referendums that began on Friday and that were widely viewed as staged to establish a pretext for Moscow to incorporate those areas into the Russian Federation. That would allow the Kremlin to conscript people from the region for its war effort and frame attacks on the territory as attacks on Russia.
President Biden condemned the referendums as “a sham — a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law.”
“The United States will never recognize Ukrainian territory as anything other than part of Ukraine,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Mr. Zelensky, in his nightly address on Friday, asked those living in regions under partial Russian control — Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizka and Kherson — to avoid Russian mobilization efforts “by any means” and to try to make it to Ukraine-held lands.
If they cannot, and end up in the Russian military, Mr. Zelensky asked that they assist Ukraine’s fight from the inside.
“Sabotage any activity of the enemy, hinder any Russian operations, provide us with any important information about the occupiers — their bases, headquarters, warehouses with ammunition,” he said. “And at the first opportunity, switch to our positions. Do everything to save your life and help liberate Ukraine.”
Ukrainian partisans have played a major role in the war from behind enemy lines. They were credited with taking part in a strike on a Russian air base in Crimea, an area that has been under Moscow’s control since 2014, and attacks on Russian-appointed officials in occupied cities.
As the referendums on joining Russia began this week, partisans targeted election infrastructure, blowing up warehouses containing ballots or buildings where officials were meeting in preparation for the vote. An explosion rocked the Russian-controlled southern city of Melitopol on Friday morning before voting started.
Mr. Zelensky said in his speech that Ukraine’s stunning advance in recent weeks, which has forced a Russian retreat in the country’s northeast, was enabled by the collaboration of Ukrainians living under Russian rule there.
Praising their efforts, he said, “Please do everything to increase such help.”
After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced a mobilization this week that could draft about 300,000 people into the military, Ukrainians in occupied lands expressed fears of the same fate.
Mr. Zelensky called such mobilization efforts “criminal” and called on outside governments to condemn the draft and “sham” referendums in occupied Ukraine.
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