Legitimising the ‘pseudo-elections’: how the West turns a blind eye to Russian crimes

Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Kremlin has been illegally holding “elections” in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine using the same methodology: legitimising the illegal occupation and creating the illusion of democracy.

In 2014, pseudo-elections were used by Russia to gain “powers” for the occupation authorities in Crimea. Today, the enemy’s goal remains the same: the well-developed algorithm is being repeated in the lands occupied since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The very fact that elections were held in the occupied territories, especially with the participation of Western “observers” and politicians, became a marker of the Kremlin’s impunity, which eventually led to a sense of impunity and became the “green light” for Russia to launch a full-scale war.

After the illegal annexation of Crimea, and later Luhansk and Donetsk regions, foreign politicians and civil society representatives visited the occupied territories on numerous occasions. Each such visit to the TOT was presented by Russian propagandists as a diplomatic victory and Western support for their actions. The lack of global reaction and the activities of the Kremlin’s network of international representatives had the effect of legitimising the annexation of Ukrainian territories at the global level, defining the occupation of the peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine as a “conflict”.


Another “elections” to local councils and legislative bodies at the place of residence has been announced for 10 September 2023 throughout Russia. Residents of the TOT of Ukraine have also been prepared for this: forced issuance of Russian passports and “early voting” to local “authorities” appointed by the occupiers have been carried out. This year’s pseudo-elections are a continuation of a 9-year crime and a consequence of tacit support for Russian policy since the Crimean referendum.

From being a signal of terrorism to the world in 2014, the Russian-Ukrainian war escalated into a full-scale invasion that after 24 February 2022 claimed the lives of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, including children. Silence on crimes continues to fuel Russia’s sense of impunity.

Polling stations in the occupied territories of Kherson and Donetsk regions. Source – occupation media.

Just like last year, when the pseudo-referendum on the accession of the occupied territories to the Russian Federation took place, Russian security forces came to the apartments of Ukrainians living under occupation with a “mobile voting station” and forced them to cast their votes under pressure. In case of refusal, Ukrainians are subjected to repression. Since the beginning of August, the occupiers have even stopped forcibly taking people to the territory of the Russian Federation to get higher numbers for the percentage of voting from Ukraine.

“Military escort” and “gratitude of the population” during the pre-election voting.
Source – telegram from Donetsk mayor Kulemzin.

“The Kremlin needs this performance with elections in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to make the impression of support for Putin’s policies among the residents. But there is an important nuance – our people are living under Russian occupation as hostages, temporarily deprived of all their basic rights by the Kremlin. Voting at gunpoint is another crime Russia has to answer for,” commented Serhii Kuzan, Head of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Centre. 

In addition to the pseudo-elections, the Russian Federation intends to increase and accelerate the pace of mobilisation: to this end, the occupation administrations have allowed Ukrainian passports and driver’s licences to be used at polling stations.


Another lawlessness under the guise of the elections scheduled for 10 September is taking place because of the world’s insufficient, and sometimes non-existent, response to the actions of the terrorist state. 

By blurring the obvious crime with the thesis of “ambiguity”, the international community is giving another green light to the Kremlin’s criminal activities.

Since the beginning of September, only the EU has reacted and condemned the “elections” among the international community. The United Nations, which should have paid attention to such a blatant crime, has remained silent so far.

“In 2014, the world decided to turn a blind eye to the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war and conduct business as usual with Russia. At that time, the Kremlin was feared and people were looking for ways to resolve the situation with as little loss as possible. Now Ukraine has changed this situation. Therefore, all those who participated in the illegal elections since 2014, illegally entered Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk regions, must be held accountable,” said Serhii Kuzan.

If you have information about collaborators, offenders who were involved in the legitimisation of the occupation, please send it to the USCC at [email protected]. Recording crimes and each perpetrator is the first step towards bringing them to justice. 

We urge you to spread information about the illegal actions of the Russian Federation during the voting, mentioning the UN and other international organisations responsible for the observance of international law.

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