Do you think russia takes everyone for fools? Why else to hold a "pseudo-referendum" in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson Oblasts? It has not been recognized by virtually any country in the world, and the fact of holding some kind of voting will not force Ukraine to refuse to reclaim its own territories. The question seems rhetorical. But as they commonly say, the fool is rich in his thoughts. Now, Ukrainians know exactly who this expression describes.

However, even though russian propagandists did not even try hard enough, there must be some point about a “referendum,” for some kremlin plan.

First of all, for putin himself, a “referendum” is probably a way to demonstrate to the russians a more or less clear result of the special military operation: here you have, enjoy, these are the territorial gains of the russian federation, we are now even bigger and stronger than before. And the “pseudo-referendum,” probably, fits best in that approach. Why? On the one hand, we keep getting excuses and achievements of at least some tasks of the “special operation” – "joining russia" has been purportedly supported by those who putin is "protecting" from the mythical Ukrainian nazis. On the other hand, russia once again mocks at Western values because in their rhetorics, they use the word "referendum", which is directly associated with democracy and the will of people.

The rigged russian propaganda show called "referendum", which allegedly took place on September 23-27, 2022, has nothing to do with democracy at all. And if there are still people who believe in the "legitimacy" or "democracy" of such russian actions, in this article we have collected the refutation points for them. Let's be frank: everything that russia ever called “referendum” turned out to be an underdog show with plentiful mistakes, inaccuracies, and falsifications. It was the reckless lie that a fool can only believe.

Illusion of Choice and the Coercion

The main symbol of the russian pseudo-referendum in the occupied Ukrainian territories are the armed militants who accompanied the "visitations" of apartments and helped to find persons who had not voted yet. You have not misread it. It is all correct - there was full geared militants, Kalashnikov gun, and a member of the election commission, and an extension of an "international observer from Chechnya." Can you make the “wrong” choice when such “commission representatives” visit you at your place?

Can you choose other mark than “Yes” when you are advised to make that choice right in the street? No coercion, no pressure, of course. 


There have been more cynical cases. The attempt to add "democracy" to the russian pseudo-referendum was the actual compulsion to vote of Ukrainian servicemen who are held in a prison in the village of Olenivka. Although there is still no certainty that all the people on the video are prisoners of war, russian government propaganda news agency TASS posted the footage in their Telegram: "Voting of prisoners of war who have a residence permit in the DPR, in the penal colony in Olenivka".


Later, propagandists went even further and stated that "Ukrainian military submitted a request to the "DPR Council" to join the Cossack battalion named after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi".

No rules

Coercion, threats, and fear are only the tip of the iceberg of russian lies, because the exact rules and procedures russia used to conduct their pseudo-referendum remain under wrap. 

The kremlin and thier collaborators were in such a hurry that they did not think about certain things at all, and could not organize other aspects in time. How do russians know how to conduct a vote if they haven't had an expression of will for years?

Let us consider some cases in detail.

  • There were virtually no polling stations in the pseudo-referendum. Even when we do not go into details, it is not only about the “voter-convenient” logistics, but also and above all, it is about securing the secrecy of the voting (of course, in case of properly equipped PECs). The occupiers in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts almost directly said: you are not expected to come to polling stations, vote wherever you want. Other than comic, the  statement about voting cannot be described, such as in Donetsk oblast: "Residents will be able to vote outside the polling stations, including in the residential buildings surrounding areas, public areas, and other places."

Vote elsewhere, but you can come to the polling station on the last day of the pseudo-vote – we'll figure something out.

  • The basic principle of democratic voting is equal suffrage. In other words, each voter has only one vote to cast. With regard for this rule, it remains unclear how "catching" people to vote in the yards, in the streets, or elsewhere could ensure this principle. It is clear that the occupying administrations would not be able to establish how many times a certain person voted. Neither would they be doing it.

In view of this, it seems absurd for the occupying administrations to declare the creation of any kind of voter lists. The formation, keeping, and maintenance of such a register requires qualifications, high security levels, finances and... (however banal) a huge amount of time. But not for the occupiers who may have the final voter list expand significantly or even appear from scratch. 

However, it turns out that voter lists (at least at some polling stations) are not mandatory at all. According to an unidentified woman, who is called "Stella, an observer from RSA", it"should be borrowed as the best practice." According to the woman, "unlike her country, where voters are assigned to certain polling stations, it turns out that here, when someone comes to vote, they already have it written in their passports where they come from."

It is certainly not entirely clear what this is about but the practice of russian falsifications might really look like a good one.

  • Without any doubt, by forcing people to vote or even by throwing in filled ballots, russians did not think about the secrecy of voting. What kind of secrecy of vote can there be if the occupiers' idea had predicted a sky-rocketing level of support for love of russia? Therefore, apparently, by producing dozens of propaganda videos, russians often fell victim to their own carelessness and lack of talent. That is why, they cast and, later, counted the empty ballots. Why trying! Putin, Pushilin or another terrorist will not appreciate it anyway.


After hearing about the institution of independent election observers, russians invited dozens of foreign supporters for crowd scenes. "Badges, praise words about the will of people, joy in the eyes of voters and, of course, the high quality of the organization of the referendum" – here is a brief overview of all propaganda reports.

However, russian propagandists must be convinced that having some foreigners who have never been known as electoral experts would allow the occupiers to talk about the legitimacy of holding a "pseudo-referendum". In addition, the russians did not even try to inventa nything, but took the pictures of their own influencers, already known to many, and used them for propaganda.

For example, a French political scientist Emmanuel Lerois tells that "Russia is the only free state left in Eurasia".

Another "observer", Roman Blashko, a former editor of the Czech communist newspaper "Haló noviny", wrote an article, back in 2014, where he blamed the West for the tragedy of the MH17 flight taken down over the Donbas.

And here is the alleged German Thomas Rapper, who "watched" the pseudo-referendum in the Kherson region. Why the alleged one? Because he has been living in russia for 20 years; he has participated in a number of russian shows, and runs the propaganda YouTube channel "Anti Spiegel", where he supports the war against Ukraine.

Therefore, the result of the "observation" of such propagandists could not even theoretically be different from the statement of the russian TASS: "International observers from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Serbia, Mozambique, France, the C.A.R. did not record any violations, except for threats and shelling from Ukraine, and highlighted the enthusiasm of voters."

Mathematics a la russe

The pseudo-referendum in the occupied Ukrainian territories has certainly become one of the most important tasks of kremlin propagandists. The repeated postponement of the "vote" itself, the chaotic nature of its organization and the absurdity of many aspects should compensate for the "positive result" that is so necessary for russia. It is natural that the propagandists should have voiced two very important figures anyway:

  1. To report that more than 50% of residents purportedly participated in the pseudo-referendum. In other words, blending into the true principles of democracy, to call it accomplished, or, "legitimate".
  2. To voice an extremely high level of support for russia's accession. Because, firstly, the results cannot be lower than a report with the findings of pseudo-surveys. And secondly, how to explain to the russian people that the regions that "a great and powerful russia" is annexing and that should be protected through mobilization do not want to join, with only some 55% of support?

All russian falsifications evolved around these two statements. However, given the "quality" of the referendum itself, problems arose with those wanted figures, that is, with the results.

We can take as an example the timeline of the "results" of the pseudo-referendum published by the "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", the official printed body of the Government of the Russian Federation.

Propagandists regularly reported how many percent of people purportedly supported the entry into russia for certain periods of time. Below we will add to this information the final indicator of the "number of referendum participants." We will then do the math by multiplying the absolute values of the votes "Yes" and "No" + invalid ballots, and compare those results.

In a nutshell, we're going to see the numbers absolutely rigged. At the same time, a very interesting phenomenon will appear in Donetsk and Zaporizhia Oblasts – a decrease in the number of those who voted "against". Thus, at the moment of a little more than half of the vote count, there allegedly were over 63,000 people who voted "No". However, by the end of the count, 47,000 of them had disappeared somewhere. What a miracle. Go figure! This happens when you see that the occupiers from the Luhansk region falsify a much better indicator of "loyalty" – and you have to catch up with them.

In other words, the propagandists who had already rigged a high share of support, decided to make it “even better” at the very end. However, they did not take into account the basic mathematical rules – as a result, they trivially exposed themselves through the "disappearance" of ballots without the support of the desired result.

Below is our break-down with the numbers.

Donetsk oblast – 2 133 326 people who "voted"

“Yes” votes, %

Protocols, %

“Yes” votes,


Total number of votes

“No” votes + invalid ballots, number of votes



2 116 899

2 133 326




1 732 884

1 749 327




1 454 607

1 473 915




1 149 124

1 212 796




636 152

677 118

40 966 

Zaporizhia oblast – 462,109 people who "voted"

“Yes” votes, %

Protocols, %

“Yes” votes,


Total number of votes

“No” votes + invalid ballots, number of votes



430 270

462 109




415 255

448 246




300 542

323 476




215 297

231 055




85 203

91 498




12 760

13 863

1 104

Luhansk oblast – 1,662,607 people who “voted”

“Yes” votes, %

Protocols, %

“Yes” votes,


Total number of votes

“No” votes + invalid ballots, number of votes



1 636 338

1 662 607

26 269



1 356 402

1 376 639

20 237



1 136 772

1 153 849

17 077

Kherson oblast – 571,001 people who “voted”

“Yes” votes, %

Protocols, %

“Yes” votes,


Total number of votes

“No” votes + invalid ballots, number of votes



497 056

571 001

73 945



373 206

433 961

60 755



59 900

68 520

8 620

And yet, the results of the referendum, pulled out of a hat, are only the pinnacle of russia's careless shenanigans. After all, considering everyone stupid, the russians did not even try to be more inventive with other numbers.

For example, according to propagandists, voter turnout in Kherson Oblast was 76.86%, and in Zaporizhia Oblast, it was 85.4%. We can compare these data with information about voter turnout in the past local elections in 2020 from the CEC of Ukraine. Voter turnout in Kherson oblast was only 32.39%, and in Zaporizhia it was 33.93%. We get a difference of 40–50% – considering also that democratic Ukrainian elections were planned and regular, the people were informed about them in advance. And people didn't show up, anyway. 

Even in theoretical terms, and at gunpoints, russian occupiers could not provide such a turnout of residents, because a major part of them have not been physically present in that territory for a long time – people left, not willing to stay under the russian occupation. Thus, more than half a million people left Kherson oblast, about 250,000 civilians left Zaporizhia oblast. We should keep in mind the Luhansk Oblast devastated by the war, where the occupiers "rigged" the purported number of 1.66 million voters, although in 2012, there were not more than 1.83 million voters in the region. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes, unfortunately.

All these are figures that supposedly had to “show the grandeur and support of russia.” As a result, we get a joyful collective russian person, but without a slightest clue of the situation, impersonated by Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, who does not know the answers to most questions but claims something like "the borders of the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions have not yet been defined, and they will depend on the will of the people."

Here's an example of Kremlin surrealism that might need to read twice. Russia, not fully controlling the Zaporizhia region, is holding a "legitimate referendum" on the accession of the region to the Russian Federation, but this is not certain because there are no borders yet. 462,000 people are purportedly voting in the pseudo-referendum, the kremlin declares a successful turnout, victory, and so on. At the same time, the number of imaginary "voters" is not more than 35% of all voters in the oblast, according to the latest data from 2020. There can't be more of them because, even if most delusively wished by the propagandists, russians do not control Zaporizhzhya, for example, where almost 570,000 voters used to live before the war. There is a completely nonsensical story that can only be believed by a fool, or by Prince Potemkin (who, actually, died a long time ago).

Most importantly, this story is believed by putin who rejoices with the leaders of the occupation administrations. It has been endorsed by the State Duma, supporting the “entry” of new regions into Russia. However, the story is not believed neither by the world, nor by Ukrainians who have fought and keep fighting for their own land. 

The Russian Federation can tell as many of their fish stories about Ukraine as a failed state as they wish, but russia has actually become one. It became the incapable state which, seeking greatness and glory, proclaimed the annexation of foreign territories, while not having total control over them and also risking of losing them. Such countries are doomed to failure. Unfortunately, in the case of russia, before it fails, there is still nuclear blackmail up the sleeve.