Russia staging illegal elections inside parts of Ukraine

September 1, 2023

Russian officials have undertaken regional elections in several Ukrainian-occupied regions whose annexation is not internationally recognized. 

The voting is being held until September 10 in four Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which the Kremlin unilaterally claimed as “new territories” of Russia last September, despite international backlash; three quarters of countries at the United Nations General Assembly condemned what they termed Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of the four regions in a vote last October.

Kyiv is calling the current voting in these regions a “sham,” illegal, and that it’s evidence of why it’s impossible for them to hold any peace talks with Moscow until Russian troops are completely withdrawn across Ukraine’s borders.

In all four regions, Kremlin hand-picked governors are seeking full terms in the polls. They are a mix of veteran pro-Russian politicians and others known only locally, and all have Russian President Vladimir Putin’s endorsement. 

According to reports, a thin trickle of residents have so far cast ballots after first showing newly-distributed Russian passports to police officers.

“It is clear that there is no trust from the people toward this process, which should be called a sham election,” said exiled Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol in the Donetsk region, Vadym Boichenko, during an interview in Kyiv.

He further warned that Russia will likely undertake the same practice it had last year: walking through the annexed regions from “apartment to apartment…[with] two soldiers standing nearby, carrying machine guns, and they tell the people that they must vote.”

In last year’s staged elections, Moscow claimed voters in the occupied regions overwhelmingly supported “referendums” backing Russian annexation.

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