Ukraine Terms Election in Russian-Controlled Regions as “Illegitimate”
Ukrainians living in Russian-Controlled areas are being called to take part in what the authorities are calling local elections.
Ukraine’s foreign minister has strongly condemned these polls, branding them as fraudulent and emphasizing that their outcomes will carry no legal weight.
All the candidates in these elections are either Russian nationals or have strong pro-Russian affiliations, including individuals handpicked by Moscow to serve as governors.
A number of people participating in the early polling process have been confronted with the requirement to cast their votes in the presence of armed Russian military personnel.
Ukrainian authorities have issued stern warnings, advising citizens against involvement in these elections and cautioning that those Ukrainian nationals who assist in organizing the elections may face consequences in the future.
The Council of Europe has condemned this action within the “illegally annexed Ukrainian territories” as a blatant violation of international law, highlighting Russia’s continued disregard for such legal norms.
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These regiosn are an integral part of Ukraine, and the decision to conduct elections in these areas merely creates the facade of a democratic process, as stated in the council’s official statement.
U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined the chorus of condemnation against the elections, denouncing them as “illegitimate” and further fueling tensions. In response, the russian embassy in the United States accused Washington of meddling in Moscow’s internal affairs, as reported by state media.
These elections, set to conclude on Sunday, are occuring in four regions where Russia does not exercise full control: Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern part of Ukraine, as well as the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Collectively, these areas represent approximately 15% of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
These are the regions that Russia formally declared as its own in September 2022, following what were widely criticized as sham referendums on the future of these occupied territories. These referendums, denounced by the international community, purpotedly yielded support rates of over 99% for these regions aligning with Moscow. Reports indicated that these referendums, at times, involved armed soldiers going door to door to collect votes.
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The exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, has characterized the current local elections as “illegal and worthless.” He noted that many candidates in the Zaporizhzhia region were not local residents, with some even hailing from Siberia. According to Fedorov, the heightened security measures in the city have left residents feeling intimidated, likening the act of voting in an occupied city to “voting in a prison.”
The Zaporizhzhia region has been a focal point of Kyiv’s counter-offensive, initiated during the summer. Ukrainian military leaders claim to have breached Russia’s formidable initial line of defences in that area, suggesting that the counter-offensive is gaining momentum.
Analysts from the U.S-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have pointed out the tactical significance of recent advances in the region, noting that these developments are widening the breach in Russian defensive lines and threatening secondary Russian defensive positions. The primary focus of Ukraine’s efforts in the region has been the village of Robotyne, situated approximately 35 miles southeast of Zaporizhzhia, the regional capital.