Russia’s Local Elections in Occupied Ukraine: A Sham Democracy and Breach of International Law

The recent announcement of local elections in the occupied territories of Ukraine by the Russian authorities has raised concerns and condemnation from various international actors. The so-called elections, which are being held in four regions that Russia does not fully control, are considered illegitimate and a violation of international law.

Ukraine’s foreign minister has labeled these elections as a “sham,” emphasizing that they hold no legal standing. The candidates in the elections are all either Russian or pro-Russian, with Moscow hand-picking the governors. The presence of armed Russian soldiers during the early polling has further raised doubts about the fairness and transparency of the process.

The Ukrainian government has taken a strong stance against these elections, warning its citizens against participating. They have also cautioned that anyone involved in organizing these elections may face future repercussions. The Council of Europe, a respected human rights body, has condemned Russia’s actions and labeled them as a “flagrant violation of international law.” The council has asserted that the areas being subjected to these elections are an integral part of Ukraine, and the decision to hold elections there only creates an illusion of democracy.

The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has also criticized the polls, describing them as illegitimate. This criticism by the US has prompted a response from the Russian embassy, accusing Washington of meddling in Moscow’s internal affairs.

It is important to note that these elections are taking place in regions that Russia claimed as its own after holding controversial referendums in September. These referendums, which were widely condemned by the international community, reportedly showed over 99% support for these regions switching to Moscow’s control. Contrary to the claims of legitimacy, these referendums were marred by reports of coercion and armed soldiers going door to door to gather votes.

While the focus remains on the elections, developments on the ground in Ukraine add another layer of complexity. Ukrainian generals claim to have breached Russia’s first line of defenses in the Zaporizhzhia region, one of the areas where local elections are being held. This counter-offensive by Ukraine has been deemed tactically significant by analysts, as it widens the breach of Russian defensive lines and threatens secondary lines of defense.

The situation in the occupied territories of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has far-reaching implications. The validity and legitimacy of these elections will impact the diplomatic relations between Ukraine, Russia, and other international stakeholders. It will also have consequences for the people living in the occupied areas, as their political representation and future governance are at stake.

International actors, particularly the United Nations, European Union, and other influential countries, need to closely monitor the situation and take strong action against Russia’s disregard for international law. It is crucial to ensure that the voices of the Ukrainian people are heard and their rights protected.

The conflict in Ukraine and the continued occupation of its territories highlight the importance of international cooperation and the necessity to find a peaceful resolution. The consequences of this conflict go beyond regional implications, affecting global stability and the rules-based international order.

As individuals, it is essential to stay informed about the complexities of the situation in Ukraine and support efforts towards a peaceful resolution. By spreading awareness and advocating for diplomatic solutions, we can contribute to the collective call for justice, democracy, and respect for international law.