Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014, demonstrates the audacity of Russian society and a sense of permissiveness and impunity for its criminal actions. The leadership of Russia, which is a reflection of the Russian people, flaunts its actions in front of the whole world and believes that it can dictate conditions to all others and establish its criminal regime in the occupied Ukrainian territories. This behavior of Russia is evidence of the weakness and ineffectiveness of the system of international relations, which was formed over decades in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Since 2014, the Russian Federation has been holding illegal referendums and elections in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine – the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, and from 2022 – in the territory of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions of Ukraine. This contradicts the norms of international law and the Constitution of Ukraine.
The conclusion of the Venice Commission from 2019 regarding the illegitimacy of the elections of deputies to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, which took place in the occupied territories of Ukraine in 2016, demonstrated the strong condemnation of the illegal and criminal actions of Russia by the international community.
Putin’s dictatorial ambitions are a threat to world democracy. Extending his power sets a precedent for other dictators who can violate international law with impunity. The Russian occupation authorities force citizens of Ukraine – residents of the temporarily occupied territories – to participate in the elections of the Russian Federation. At the same time, blackmail, intimidation, forced passporting, replacement of Ukrainian identification documents with Russian counterparts are used.
The international community should categorically not recognize the results of the presidential elections of the Russian Federation at the Ukrainian National Assembly. Personal lifetime sanctions should be imposed on the organizers of illegal elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories. The presence of foreign observers at such pseudo-elections is illegal. Such observers become complicit in the crimes of the aggressor state.
The possible participation of citizens of the EU countries as observers in the Russian pseudo-elections marks their misunderstanding of reality and a shameful act of anti-solidarity not only towards Ukraine, but also towards the EU countries that support Kyiv in its fight against the Russian aggressor. There can be no question of democracy or referendums or elections in the occupied territories, where violence and lawlessness prevail.
Elections in the occupied territories violate the Paris Charter of the UN, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Therefore, no elected body or elected office of the Russian Federation that is elected in this way cannot be recognized as legitimate.
So, in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, people’s rights are being violated, repression is increasing, and the humanitarian crisis is intensifying, which is an act of genocide by Russia against the Ukrainian people. The holding of Russian presidential elections in these territories endangers the lives of civilians due to ongoing hostilities and is another crime committed by Russia, for which this society must be held accountable.
Nika Chitadze, political scientist, Tbilisi, Georgia