Ukrainians in the Russian-occupied town of Melitopol in southern Ukraine fear they could be mobilized by Moscow after a referendum on joining the Russian Federation in which some citizens were forced to vote at gunpoint, the town's Ukrainian mayor, Ivan Fyodorov, said today. , Reuters reported.

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The mayor said the last official route from Melitopol to the Ukrainian-controlled territory had been closed, and local residents' fears had intensified since the four-day referendum began on Friday.

"Our residents are scared, they are in a panic, they don't know what will happen tomorrow and when they will start mobilizing people (in the Russian army)," Fyodorov said at a press conference via video link, quoted by BTA.

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Melitopol was one of the first cities to fall into Russian hands after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February.

It is located in one of the four regions where referendums are produced, described by Kyiv as "fake".

According to Fedorov, the main purpose of the referendums is to give Moscow an opportunity to mobilize Ukrainians after the partial mobilization announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

"Voting takes place in the presence of (Russian) men with assault rifles," he said.

"People are caught (by Russian soldiers) right on the street and forced to vote, not only on their behalf, but instead of their whole family. When they (soldiers) enter an apartment building where there are tenants, they drive them to vote for every registered person in this building," Fedorov adds.

The mayor said that passage through the Vasylivka crossing - the only way to reach territories under Kyiv's control - had been suspended for men between the ages of 18 and 35 for four days, and was completely blocked yesterday.

"Reuters" has not been able to confirm this information from independent sources.

Referendums on joining Russia in the four Ukrainian regions were hastily organized after Kyiv regained control of large swaths of northeastern Ukraine.

The Russian parliament could move to formalize the annexations within a few days, according to Reuters.

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