| 17 June 2024, Monday |

Ukraine condemns ‘sham’ elections in Russian-occupied regions

Residents of Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine are being invited to vote in what the authorities call municipal elections.

The polls, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister, are a “sham,” with no legal basis.

Candidates are entirely Russian or pro-Russian, with Moscow handpicking governors.

Many of those voting early have been asked to do it in the presence of armed Russian servicemen.

Ukrainian officials have stated that any Ukrainian nationals participating in the election’s organization may expect to be prosecuted in the future.

The Council of Europe, a human rights body, condemned the move in the “illegally annexed Ukrainian territories” as a “flagrant violation of international law, which Russia continues to disregard”.

Not only are these areas an integral part of Ukraine, but the decision to hold elections there “creates the illusion of democracy”, the council said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also decried the polls saying: “Russia’s sham elections in occupied areas of Ukraine are illegitimate.” This sparked a response from the Russian embassy in the US, which accused Washington of meddling in Moscow’s internal affairs.

The elections, which conclude on Sunday, and are taking place in four regions that Russia does not even fully control – Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Together they make up around 15% of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

Elections are also taking place in Crimea – under illegal Russian occupation since 2014 – and are being run in parallel to local polls in Russia itself.