war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

12. Rights of Citizens to Free Elections and Participation in Referendums: Overview



   In our review last year we stated that the election of people's deputies of Ukraine in 2012 were held with violations of the standards of fair and democratic elections and were most problematic during the national elections since 2004. The law enforcement agencies showed utter helplessness in the course of violations that took place in constituency election committees during counting of the votes. After numerous reports of violations no proper investigation into the facts was carried out.

   On the ground of our overview, we called on public authorities to carefully study the experience of elections in 2012, so that the shortcomings in the electoral process could be removed before the rerun and midterm elections of people's deputies of Ukraine, and the presidential election of 2015.

   We believed that prior to the presidential elections in 2015 it would be advisable to codify electoral legislation and consider revision of the electoral system for parliamentary elections with allowance for the advice of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission.

   We approached the General Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine asking to consider measures aimed at bringing all perpetrators of violations of election laws to legal liability. We offered the President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to consider prosecution of officials of the executive branch accountable for violations of election laws, including those involved in campaigning.

   We believe that these measures could contribute to the successful practice of overcoming epidemic of violations of voters' rights. However, following the results of 2013 we are forced to conclude that our major requirements have not been implemented: no thorough investigation was conducted, the perpetrators were not brought to justice, and most recommendations were not taken into account.

   Therefore the past year was a year of lost hopes and expectations. The problems hindering the right to free elections and referendums were not solved. 2013 added still more regular problems and obstacles.

   The deputies have not revived the rights of Ukrainians to conduct local referendums, and the courts go on blocking nationwide referendums

   During 2013 the law on local referendum was not adopted and our citizens are, in fact, deprived of the right to solve the problems of their communities[2]. In this regard the people’s deputies of Ukraine only made resounding speeches[3] and held roundtables but failed to solve the above issues.

  There is a critical situation with the rights of citizens to participate in national referendums. The people’s deputies failed to change the Law of Ukraine “On the National Referendum”, which drew fair criticism. Moreover, for years the CEC kept refusing the citizens their right to participate in the organization and holding of national referendums. This year, the courts have joined the “actors” who actively interfered with the rights of citizens to referendums.

   In the fall 2013, the CEC refused to register the initiative groups created in Kyiv, Donetsk, Odesa, Simferopol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mykolayiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Sevastopol, Kryvyi Rih, Vinnytsia, Kirovohrad, Zhytomyr, Kakhovka (Kherson Oblast), Luhansk, Odesa and Poltava in order to hold referendum on popular initiative[4].

   The reason for the refusal was that the Kyiv District Administrative Court banned the CEC members to attend all these meetings. This was done to ensure that the administrative claim of the European Party of Ukraine about recognition of the actions of the CEC illegal with respect to the acceptance and registration of the notice about holding the meeting of the citizens of Ukraine about holding referendum on popular initiative[5].

   The CEC in its regulations, on the basis of which it refused to register the initiative groups for holding referendums, relied on the provision of law that the presence of a representative of the Central Election committee at the meeting is required, but not possible because of the injunction. As a result of such judicial tightrope walking the citizens could not exercise their right to vote in the referendum.

   The deputies refused to appoint special local elections

   The Ukrainians in Kyiv, Chernivtsi, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Cherkasy, Odesa, Henichesk and in many other cities, towns and villages, in fact, were denied the right to vote. Because of the political opposition in the Verkhovna Rada the people’s deputies refused to go over the problem of calling early elections of chairpersons in the case of early termination of their powers. At the beginning of the year because of blocking the parliamentary rostrum the elections in 72 local communities the elections were not appointed for long time. Later the people’s deputies simply did not vote for the resolution on appointment of elections. So, on October 22 the people’s deputies did not support a number of resolutions to hold snap elections of 69 rural and 9 village chairpersons in connection with the early termination of their powers[6].

   On November 8 the people’s deputies did not support the resolution on the appointment of special elections of 101 rural and 14 village chairpersons. The representatives of the opposition groups said that the factions Batkivshchyna, Udar and Svoboda will not participate in the vote on the draft resolution on some early local elections. Arguing their positions, they stated the selectivity of appointment of such elections, stressed the need to hold elections in all regions and cities where they had to be held. Head of the Communist Party faction P. Symonenko announced about its non-participation in voting[7].

   As of January 15, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada failed to take decisions on 173 draft resolutions to hold snap local elections, of which 151 resolutions to hold snap elections of some rural and village heads, 19 resolutions on the election of city mayors and 3 resolutions about appointment of elections of deputies of local radas[8].

   In the opinion of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, due to the fact that the people’s deputies had refused to make decisions on appointments of early elections the local self-government in these municipalities was “paralyzed”[9].

   Temporary Commission of Inquiry into violations of the elections failed to fulfill its tasks

   One of the important tasks was to conduct a proper investigation into numerous allegations of violations of electoral rights of citizens during the election campaign in 2012.

   To this end, on March 21, 2013 the Temporary Investigative Commission of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to investigate the facts of revision of the will of the Ukrainian people in the parliamentary elections of 2012 was established. The main objectives of the commission were to be “the factual inquiry into the revision of the will of the Ukrainian people in the parliamentary elections of 2012 through juggling with results of outpouring of popular will, violations of electoral rights of the citizens of Ukraine by judges, law enforcement officials, other public authorities, and by the early unconstitutional termination of mandates of people's deputies of Ukraine Vlasenko S.V., Baloha P.I., Dombrovski O.H. due to the selective justice and the unconstitutional establishment of the fact of inability to determine the results of elections of deputies of Ukraine on October 28, 2012 in the single-mandate constituencies nos. 94, 132, 194, 197 and 223”[10].

The commission was actually blocked by the majority who did not attend its meetings. As a result, the report of the commission was not heard in the hall, and the Commission in early June was dissolved[11]. Committee Chairman Arsen Avakov published the unofficial committee report online.

   Law enforcers ignored proper investigation into allegations of violations

   On the basis of the Unified State Register of Court Rulings only seven criminal cases was found concerning crimes against electoral rights and considered by our courts during 2013. Of these three criminal cases were closed. Two cases, in spite of investigator’s attempts to close them, are still being adjudged. And only two cases were completed with passing a sentence[12].

   In some cases, the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducts pre-trial investigation of criminal violations concerning the implementation of voting rights. However, these investigations bear signs of selectivity and are rather directed against political opponents of the current government. Thus, in July 2013 the Main Investigation Department of MIA of Ukraine based on the application of the people’s deputies of Ukraine began preliminary inquiry into criminal proceedings on the grounds of criminal offenses provided for by article 158 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine concerning the facts of forgery of election documents by an unidentified member of the Election committee during the regular election of the people's deputies of Ukraine in single-mandate constituency no. 133 ( Kyiv District of Odesa)[13]. This investigation was one of the arguments for the abolition of the Central Election committee Regulation on the registration of Igor Markov as a people’s deputy. The results of the investigation of this criminal investigation are unknown. The relative information about this is absent in the Unified State Register of Court Rulings.

   Local elections: the situation with respect for the rights of voters has not improved

   In 2013, despite significant challenges with the appointment of special elections in some municipalities, local elections were held regularly. In particular, there were 212 early elections of urban, rural and village heads[14] and about one hundred and fifty intermediate elections and reelections of deputies of local councils at various levels. It is noteworthy that traditionally electoral rights violations on a massive scale occur only during the elections in some municipalities. That is, the source of disturbance is not an insufficient legal culture of the electoral process or the lack of tradition of democratic elections but a focused and organized action.

   Let us zero in on the coverage of the situation with compliance with voting rights during the two election campaigns: early elections of Vasylkiv and Yalta city heads. These elections were held on June 2, 2013.

   The Committee of Voters of Ukraine announced the breach in this election, which could affect the results. For example, in Vasylkiv “the elections were not easy both during the voting and vote-counting we fixed some procedural violations. Attempt of ballot stuffing at two stations was stopped at some polling stations; the observers and journalists were removed from the premises of the polling station commission. But mostly the observers and the deputies were present at the stations,” said Olexandr Chernenko, Head of the Electoral Committee of Ukraine (ECU), who was quoted by the “Interfax-Ukraine”.

   In Yalta, the violations had signs of systemic falsifications. The ECU, in particular, informed that after 18.00 the turnout of electors increased unexpectedly; at polling stations the officials began ousting journalists and observers, bulletins were issued to unidentified persons, the members of the commission started tampering with the lists of electors. “All this was classified as systemic signs of falsifications: throwing-in ballots. And confirmation was close at hand. At two polling stations (in Yalta and in Gaspra) the ECU observers recorded thick packs of ballots in the ballot boxes. Moreover, immediately after that at one of the stations the committee voted to remove the observer from the station,” said Krysko, the ECU representative. According to ECU, the “anomalous” activity of electors was observed almost everywhere, indicating the widespread use of this technology. In addition, the similar cases of stuffing of the packs of ballots were documented at a number of stations by other members of the electoral process[15].

   As the representatives of the Opora stated, during election in Vasylkiv the observers documented “the typical arsenal of tools and recorded violations that could indicate the organization of carousels, bribing of voters, ungrounded issuance of ballots to third parties, balloting instead of the elderly; there was a specific episode: the morning meeting of district election committees, which by law cannot be held earlier than one hour before the voting, took place mainly without observers and media. Or they were not admitted before 8 am, or the safe was not opened in the presence of the audience, so the integrity of the seals could not be established[16].

   Following the hearings, the claims against the Vasylkiv City Election Commission demanding to revoke resolution on the election of Mayor of Vasylkiv based on complaints of violations of the election law were rejected. Interestingly, one of the reasons for the refusal was that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence on appeal to the militia claiming a crime during the election process[17].

   Intermediate elections and re-elections of the people’s deputies in six districts

   On July 7, 2013, the midterm elections of the people’s deputy were held in the single-mandate constituency no. 224 (Sevastopol). According to ECU observers, they documented attempts to prevent the media from entering a polling station during voting and vote counting, presence at polling stations of persons who were not entitled to stay there (employees of the units of the Ministry of Emergency, unknown persons), violation of the counting procedure and rules of executing procès-verbaux of the election results at the polling stations.

   Of special concern for ECU was the information campaign in the media intended to discredit public observation at midterm elections and in particular the fact that this campaign involved people's deputies of Ukraine and members of the Central Election committee[18].

   Holding repeat elections in five single-seat electoral districts became the central event (nos. 94, 132, 194, 197, 223).

   Below we provide information on the most common violations that took place during the elections, and the main trends that influenced the results. It is the overview of materials prepared by independent observation conducted by Public Network Opora and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine during the re-election[19]:

   Election committees

   At the beginning of the review, we will note the role of election committees. According to Opora, the CEC properly provided for the main stages of the electoral process. The Commission took steps to improve procedures for the formation of divisional and district election committees taking into account the shortcomings of previous elections. The registration process was conducted in an orderly and politically impartial way. All in all, the divisional and district election committees with difficulties, but ensured the organization and conduct of the electoral process.

   Effect of courts

   The role of the court is increasing: it often substitutes both CEC and election committees, and voters themselves. This was particularly significant in the case of V.Romaniuk and O.Arseniuk.

   on December 1, 2013, the Kyiv Appeal Administrative Court, despite the fact that the period of CEC inactivity appeal expired, declared unlawful and quashed the decision of the CEC of October 21, 2013 on the registration of people’s deputy nominee Viktor Romaniuk[20]. The Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine on December 4 ordered CEC to cancel the registration of people’s deputy nominee Viktor Romaniuk[21]. During the hearings, it was found that V.Romaniuk violated article 76 of the Constitution of Ukraine and article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine” concerning living in Ukraine over the past five years. Victor Romaniuk during the past year period--from December 15, 2012 to November 29, 2013--stayed outside Ukraine for 309 days while at the time of registration of parliamentary candidates this time made 270 days. We should note that if Victor Romaniuk had not gone abroad, he would have been arrested in connection with the investigation conducted by the Ukrainian authorities against him[22].

   The contradictory character of the decision of the Kyiv Administrative Appellate Court of Ukraine consisted in the fact that the court actually failed to meet the time limit to appeal (defined in article 109 "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine” and article 179 of the Code of Administrative Procedure of Ukraine ) against the CEC decision.

   The Opora in its report maintains that in the similar situation the same Kyiv Administrative Appellate Court dismissed the claim of self-nominated candidate Olexiy Arseniuk concerning the CEC omission to act on verification of registration data submitted my Batkivshchyna candidate Mykola Bulatetsky on the grounds of time limitation for challenging the relevant CEC Resolution[23].

   Bribery of voters as a manifestation of electoral corruption became extremely widespread

   Bribing voters is a crime under article 157 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine which requires from law enforcers to perform objective investigation of established facts. During the parliamentary rerun elections in five districts “the vote buying became and remains a key risk in free expression of popular will in the course of rerun elections of people's deputies of Ukraine,” reads the Interim Report of the Public Network Opora. Bribing was reported in districts nos. 194 (Odesa), 223 (Kyiv), and 94 (downtown of Obukhiv Town, Kyiv Oblast).

   Repeated instances of grafting voters in the interests of self-nominated candidate Mykhailo Poplavsky were revealed in the district no. 194. The complex of evidential facts collected by public observers and subjects of the election process provides documentary evidence of systematic unlawful acts in the form of bribery of voters in the constituency no. 194. These circumstances require decisive actions of law enforcers aimed at preventing vote-buying. All information about cases of election corruption the observers gave the law enforcing bodies, prosecutors and the CEC.

   Here are some facts that are mentioned in the reports of the Opora observers and ECU.

   Constituency no. 194 (Cherkasy). On November 23, on the premises of public self-organization body Khimselysche located on 218 Rosa Luxemburg Str. The Opora activists recorded a briefing on bribery of voters for Mykhailo Poplavskiy. The very next day, on November 24, the activists recorded how the unknown persons were offering tenants on the 429 Gogol Str. to sell their votes in favor of Mykhailo Poplavsky. The terms of bribing voters included voter’s filling out an unstandardized application and visiting an unofficial office, the address of which was indicated by the organizers of the bribery. Before the election the voter could get ₴200 and after the election s/he was promised to get another ₴150. Once and again the Opora observers recorded such cases, they documented video evidence and relevant statements to the police. In some cases, such vote buying was carried out openly. Candidate Mykhailo Poplavsky publicly denied bribing voters to his advantage.

   Constituency no. 223 (Kyiv). On November 28, the Opora activists were present at the meeting with the persons who introduced themselves as ones in charge of propaganda work for the advantage of self-nominated candidate Viktor Pylypyshyn.

Under the proposed scheme, the future “agitators” were offered to attract two hundred people in the hostel who were willing to vote for Victor Pylypyshyn. In addition, it was also necessary to find two people who would be eager to begin to attract their friends to the pyramid. The “agitators” were expected to compile lists of students with their names, surnames, first names, dates of birth, places of residence and phone numbers. The “agitators” had to offer the attracted voters ₴200 USD before the election day and ₴2000 within 7-10 days after election day.

   Voting and counting of votes

   During voting, counting and counting of votes the district election committees, according to estimates of Opora and ECU, largely implemented the statutory requirements and the minimum acceptable standards for the process. According to Chairman of the ECU Olexandr Chernenko, “the counting of votes at polling stations and district election committees passed without significant impairment. The efficient calculation showed that the problems that occurred in these districts a year ago have been fixed this year”[24].

   The most common problem was unregulated by law presence and indirect pressure of bystanders on the work of election committees. In the constituency no. 94 such episodes occurred in 34% of district polling stations, in no. 223--16 %, no. 197--11% and in no. 194--10% of polling stations.

   The violation of the secrecy of the ballot became an equally common problem on the voting day, which was often documented by public observers. In particular, such cases were found in 17% of polling stations of the district no. 94, 16% of polling stations of the district no. 223, 11% of polling stations of the district no. 197 and 10% of polling stations of the district no. 194. The precedents of the organized transportation of voters, issuing ballots without showing a passport and photographing the ballots were widespread violations of the election day. In particular, the transportation of voters occurred in 8% of polling stations of the district no. 94, and photographing papers were recorded in 10 % of polling stations of the district no. 223. In the opinion of the Committee of Voters, the transportation of voters is a form of illegal control of voting.

   There was obstruction of observers. In the district no. 132 (downtown Pervomaisk) the Opora observers had to turn to the militia due to threats against them.

   In the single-mandate constituency no. 94 the activists documented cases of obstruction to official observers and journalists. In particular, the commissioners of the DEC no. 320288 (urban village Hlevakha) decided to remove the Opora observer from the voting room. Shortly before this the observer recorded the attempt of one of the committee members to take away from the voting premises 100 blank voting bulletins.

   By results of monitoring of the runoff elections the Public Network Opora and the Electoral Committee of Ukraine stated that only in two single-member constituencies [no. 223 ( Kyiv) and no. 194 (Cherkasy)] “the violations during the campaign, which were recorded by the observers and local journalists, had signs of large-scale and systematic bribery” and influenced the voting, which only documented “the result of unlawful actions[25].

   Here is the estimate by Cherkasy Oblast Organization of the ECU of the results of monitoring: “The runoff elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine in the constituency no. 194 took place in conditions which did not comply with the principles and standards for democratic elections. Although the Central Election Commission has the legal basis to establish the outcome of the election in the constituency no. 194, the results have been skewed by the use of vote-buying during the campaign and violations on election day[26].

   In other districts the public observers have not found such violations, which could be understood as stealing of elections[27].

   Conclusions and recommendations

   In 2013, the vast majority of recommendations for improving the situation of the rights of citizens to free elections and to participate in referendums that had been suggested civic activists and human rights advocates were not implemented.

   The proper investigation into the facts of violations during the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2012 was not conducted. The individual investigations rather illustrate the selective application of justice against political opponents of the government than an attempt to restore justice and punish the perpetrators of massive violations of electoral rights. The system attempts to investigate were impeded. Therefore the job of the Temporary Committee of Inquiry of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine intended to investigate violations during the elections suffered a major setback.

   The codification of electoral legislation was not carried out; the Law on Local Referendum depriving citizens of the right to solving local problems through referenda was not adopted. At the same time some issues can be resolved only through a referendum. Despite the efforts of the public, the law on an All-Ukrainian referendum was not amended. But the presence of the current legislation is not a guarantee for the rights of citizens. So, in the fall, because of court decisions, yet another initiative to hold public referendum was blocked.

   Overall, 2013 was marked by several extremely important decisions, when the courts with their ambiguous solutions significantly corrected the expression of popular will and became a barrier to exercise their electoral rights.

   The circumstances took a threatening turn in many municipalities in connection with the failure to appoint special elections of city, town and village heads where existing authorities were suspended.

The re-run of elections of people’s deputies were in the limelight. The public observers make a special mention of the appropriate organization of the work of election committees and positive role of the CEC.

   The elections were marred by widespread bribery of voters and illegal attempts to control the expression of the will during elections in constituencies nos. 194 and 223.

   In our recommendations, we have to repeat at least the minimum of major requirements that were contained in last year's overview and are relevant today.

   First of all, the persons found to have committed violations of the electoral legislation should be held legally responsible.

   Prior to the 2015 presidential elections it is necessary to codify electoral legislation and consider revision of the electoral system for parliamentary elections taking into consideration the recommendations of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission.

   It is worth recommending the President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine:

   - To consider the possibility of adopting within their competence measures to bring officials of the executive branch accountable for violations of election laws, including participation in campaign activities;

   - To consider the possibility of adopting before the next elections of act(s) that will determine the standards for the activity of government officials and heads of other executive agencies busy with preparation of the elections.

   The Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine shall:

   - Consider adopting within their competence measures aimed at bringing all perpetrators of violations of election legislation to legal liability;

   - Publish information on the outcome of consideration of cases on administrative offenses and criminal cases by respective courts;

   - Take measures to enhance the expertise, knowledge and skills of prosecutors and militia officers concerning election legislation, voting rights protection, response to violations and so on.

[1] This overview was prepared by Kherson Oblast Organization of the Committee of Constituencies of Ukraine  Dementiy Bielyi.

[2] See

[3] Koshulynskyy says that there is an urgent need to solve issues of local referendum - April 3, 2013 - UNIAN

[4] The Ukrainian referendum by popular initiative had been planned to include one question: "Do you support Ukraine's joining the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation? Yes. No.” See the texts of decisions:, = 0,,,,, http: / /,

[5] See the decision of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv of September 2, 2013, October 2, 2013 ua/Review/33874143, October 9, 2013, on November 7, 2013 / 34683989, on November 8, 2013, ruling of the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeal of February 4, 2014 ua/Review/37121647

[6] access 09.01.2014

[7] access 09.01.2014


[9] Resolution of the IX Congress of the All-Ukrainian public organization "Committee of Voters of Ukraine" -- November 1, 2013

[10] See the text of this resolution :

[11] The commission became a thing of the past. The Rada refused to recognize the Report of the Verkhovna Rada Special Commission on Elections: Newspaper "Kommersant-Ukraina", no. 92 (1795 ), 06.06.2013

[12] The sentences concerned violations of articles 157, 161 and 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

[13] See :

[14] In particular, see information about the election results:, / 20131512_message.pdf,

[15] The ECU informs about falsifications during elections in Vasylkiv and Yalta on June 3, 2013

[16] Olga Aivazovska. Attempted crime. Lessons of mayoral election in Vasylkiv - 2013 - 6 June Access 09/01/2014

[17] See the court ruling Access 09.01.2014

[18] Statement of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine concerning the assessment of the mid-term elections of people's deputy of Ukraine at the constituency no. 224 Access 09.01.2014

[19] Source: Interim report on the long-term observation of Opora during the mid-term parliamentary elections in 5 constituences (December 13) INTERIM REPORT on the results of public monitoring of parliamentary elections in five districts Conclusions of Cherkasy Oblast Organization of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine for the observation of re-election on December 15 in constituencies nos. 194 and 197. Access 01/09/2014



[22] The competitor of Zasukha fled abroad because of persecution. Ukrayinska Pravda, February 7, 2013 #39;s rival was arrested in Italy. Ukrayinska Pravda March 22, 2013

[23] Olexiy Arseniuk, self-nominated in the constituency no. 194 in Cherkasy, member of the Party of Regions, filed suit in the CEC, which said that the application for registration of parliamentary candidate had been signed by First Deputy Head of All-Ukrainian Association Batkivshchyna Olexandr Turchynov and not by the party leader, that is it had not been signed by an authorized person and the candidate's autobiography contains no data that Mykola Bulatetsky in 1995-1997 lived in the U.S., also it contained no information on his career as director of several entities. Also, Mr. Arseniuk noticed that the biographical information submitted to CEC cannot be considered autobiographical in the sense of the Law of Ukraine "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine".

[24] "Counting of votes and absence of manipulations by the committees in the constituencies legitimize the election results in five districts" -- ECU Chairman comments about the end of counting of votes and drawing up of reports DEEC: http :/ / / nodes / view / type: news / slug: 163





 Share this