Russia replaces its top general and pursues separatist Ukraine polls


Russia replaces its top general and pursues separatist Ukraine polls
After a string of setbacks and as Kremlin-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine held a second day of voting on joining Russia, Moscow removed its top logistics general on Saturday.

The changing of the guard coincides with a significant Russian mobilization effort after the invasion of Ukraine revealed significant logistical challenges, leading to Kyiv reclaiming more and more territory.

The recent successes made by the Ukrainian army in a quick counteroffensive and Russia's invasion have exposed significant logistical weaknesses, which some observers believe to be the weak link in Moscow's force.

Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, 60, will take Army General Dmitry Bulgakov's place as deputy minister of defense, according to the defence ministry.

One of his first significant logistical challenges will likely be Russia's partial mobilization, which was announced on Wednesday. The hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up must be outfitted and trained before deployment.

Seven months after Moscow's soldiers entered, the stakes were substantially raised on Friday when voting on whether Russia should annex four areas of Ukraine began.

The referendums, according to US Vice President Joe Biden, are "a sham...a phony pretext to try to conquer regions of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law."

Even Beijing, the conflict's closest friend since it started in February, responded.

In remarks to his Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba at the UN General Assembly on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized that "all countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity must be maintained."

The polling is taking place in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south, as well as the Russian-controlled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east.

Authorities are canvassing neighborhoods for four days to get votes. On the final day, Tuesday, polling places are open for locals to cast their votes. Results might come as soon as Tuesday night or Wednesday.

"In the end, the Soviet Union is heading towards restoration. The referendum is a first step in that direction, a 59-year-old military official named Leonid told AFP.

As Moscow would view any military action there as an attack on its own territory, the absorption of the four territories into Russia would signal a significant escalation of the conflict.

Ukrainian military claimed to be reclaiming territory from insurgents backed by Moscow in the exact regions that Russia wants to annex.

The sudden referendums were just announced this week, following a Ukrainian counteroffensive that took control of much of the northeastern Kharkiv region and returned Kyiv sovereignty to hundreds of communities that had been under Russian occupation for months.

After several weeks of fighting, the nearby city of Irpin was retaken, and the locals have come together to begin reconstruction before winter arrives.

Irpin, which President Volodymyr Zelensky termed a "hero city" for repelling Russian invaders, suffered severe damage from shelling to over 100 apartment buildings.

Mykhailo Kyrylenko, the head of the residents' association for his building, joyfully observed the development of the new roof.

People volunteered to donate money despite their limited financial resources in order to progressively rebuild the destroyed homes, he told AFP.

Putin indicated this week that Moscow would use "all necessary methods" to defend its territory, including the use of "strategic nuclear weapons," as Dmitry Medvedev suggested on social media.

The referendums are a replica of the one held in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has condemned the elections, calling them "crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine" on Friday.

The G7 said that the elections "never" will be recognized and will "have no legal consequence or legitimacy."

In addition, UN investigators charged Russia with committing "large scale" war crimes in Ukraine, including bombs, executions, torture, and horrifying sexual assault.

Erik Mose of the Commission of Inquiry, a panel of investigators appointed by the Security Council in March, claimed they had discovered evidence of "several executions" as well as child rape and torture.

Ukrainian authorities stated Friday that the exhumation of 447 bodies from a site close to the city of Izyum, which was retaken from Russian forces, has been completed in the eastern Kharkiv area.

The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleg Synegubov, stated that "most of them had symptoms of violent death, and 30 have signs of torture."

There are bodies with shattered limbs, gunshot wounds, and rope around their necks and hands.

Kiev has been charged by the Kremlin with creating proof of the alleged war crimes.


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