Falsifications and intimidation: how Russia held illegitimate election in the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions

<strong>Author<strong> Oksana Kuzan

On Sunday, September 19, the election to the State Duma, which lasted three days, ended in Russia. Apart from information about mass fraud and forced voting in favor of the ruling United Russia party, the Kremlin’s “expression of will” is a challenge to the civilized world.

On Sunday, September 19, the election to the State Duma, which lasted three days, ended in Russia. Apart from information about mass fraud and forced voting in favor of the ruling United Russia party, the Kremlin’s “expression of will” is a challenge to the civilized world. Moscow involved in the election not only residents of the occupied Crimea but also the occupied districts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which violates the Constitution of Ukraine and contradicts the norms of international law.

And although Moscow has already declared a “fair victory” of the ruling party, numerous falsifications in the virtual absence of international observers suggest otherwise.

The situation in Russia

This year’s election is very important for Russia. In fact, it is a dress rehearsal before the Russian presidential election in 2024. Therefore, Moscow was lavish with tools to ensure a decent “result” of the presidential force.

The ratings of the ruling United Russia party are falling every year. In February, United Russia had only 27% support, which is a wake-up call for Putin, who still plans to rule Russia. However, the mood in society is not the best. Russians do not believe that Russian leaders are able to deal with the situation. The country faces a grave situation with Covid-19 –record mortality rates were observed in summer.

So while the world watched the situation in Belarus, opposition media in Russia were shut down, opposition candidates were removed en masse from the elections, and criminal cases were initiated against them. In July, the federal media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked nearly 50 websites and demanded the removal of social media pages linked to imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his associates. So there were no truly opposition parties in power in this election in Russia.

Moscow had also resorted to blatant voter bribery. In August, Putin announced lump sum payments for retirees.

The situation is so grave that Russia rolled the dice and decided to hold the illegitimate election in the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions for the first time.

Russian passportization

In 2019, Russia began to issue Russian passports en masse in the occupied regions in the East of Ukraine – currently, over 600 000 people own them.

In June this year, on the eve of the election to the State Duma, this process had accelerated significantly. The only reason for this haste is to ensure the local residents’ participation in the Russian election. The issued “passports” were marked with the code of the non-existent subdivision of the Migration Service of the Rostov region. The residence permit was not indicated, so such a document does not give the right to social payments, but is only a voting certificate.

United Russia only

To ensure the necessary voting turnout, and most importantly – the facade of full support for Putin’s party (and, accordingly, Russia’s occupation of the East of Ukraine), the Kremlin-controlled governments of the so-called “republics” were actively involved.

Prior to the election, various events were held here “with the assistance of”, and sometimes with the participation of United Russia representatives. Agitation and outreach campaigns were conducted, in particular, 396 information centers were opened to explain how to vote “correctly”.

The “voting” took place in two ways – via the distance electronic voting system (DEV) and at polling stations in the Rostov region of the Russian Federation. A special trip was organized for the latter. On September 15, the so-called “head of the DPR” Denis Pushilin (in July he expressed a desire to become a member of United Russia) announced the organization of 825 bus and 12 rail trips for “those wishing” to participate in the Russian election.

But despite such statements and figures, residents of the so-called “republics” were in no hurry to register in the DEV system and complained that they were forced to vote for United Russia.

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Realizing the looming failure, the Kremlin-controlled “government” resorted to intimidation and unprecedented falsifications:

  • public-sector employees and students were forced to register in the DEV and vote “correctly”;
  • along with registration, some citizens were forced to pass their access to the DEV accounts in order to secure a vote for United Russia. The procedure can be seen from the video published on YouTube, where the administrator of the Alchevsk center of culture carries out mass falsification: votes online for the ruling party with the prepared list of citizens registered in the DEV;
  • according to Russian media, some citizens who were brought to Rostov to vote did not have Russian passports. Passports were issued to them directly near the polling station.
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Moreover, illegitimate “election” brings the odious “DPR/LPR” militants to the Russian State Duma. No prizes for guessing what activities they will carry out in the Russian parliament.

However, although Moscow has used mass fraud and neutralized opposition candidates, preliminary election results suggest a steady loss of ratings by Putin’s party. So it is likely that in addition to tested tools of interfering in the election process on September 17-19, the Kremlin will look for additional ways to ensure Putin’s future terms in office.

What these ways will also depend on the international community, which should not remain silent after the audacious dragging of the occupied regions of Ukraine in the Russian election and further attempts to legitimize the occupation. 

In such a way, official Ankara and Warsaw have declared non-recognition of the elections held by Russia in the occupied Crimea.

“The elections to the State Duma in Crimea that took place on September 17-19, 2021 have no legal force for Turkey”, – the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The Polish Foreign Ministry, in addition to not recognizing the elections in Crimea, also condemned the mass issuance of passports and the organization of electronic voting in the occupied parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Dictators never stop, they can only be stopped.

Photo – Reuters

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