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.

Ukrainians in occupied territory forced at gunpoint to vote for fake candidates in Russia's pseudo-election

Halya Coynash
Russia hopes to claim ‘legitimacy’ for its armed invasion and annexation of Ukrainian territory by staging door-to-door ‘elections’ ‘with Russian soldiers providing the armed ‘incentive’

Pseudo-elections Cartoon posted by RIA Melitopol

Pseudo-elections Cartoon posted by RIA Melitopol

Since 1 September, Russian soldiers have been ‘visiting’ Ukrainians in occupied parts of the Donetsk; Luhansk; Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, getting them to cast ‘votes’ at gunpoint.  Russia is claiming these to be ‘elections’ for legislative bodies in those areas, however the alleged ‘result’ of this farce has doubtless already been decided in Moscow, and many of the ‘candidates’ are essentially dead souls, needed to imitate non-existent choice. One resident of a village in Zaporizhzhia oblast reported that ‘voters’ are only allowed to read the ballot paper on condition that they fill it in openly. 

Any ‘elections’ organized by the Russian Federation have long borne little resemblance to those in democratic countries, and the by-elections to the State Duma, regional ‘elections’ and those for governors, held on 10 September this year, or in some areas from 8-10 are no exception. Any such events have been illegitimate since 2014 when Russia began illegally holding them in occupied Crimea. 

Moscow is now staging these in other occupied parts of Ukraine that it is pretending ‘have joined Russia’. People are supposedly voting only for four ‘legislative bodies’ with those illegitimate bodies then appointing other local bodies.  All key appointments are known to come from Moscow, with this only one of multiple reasons why Russia’s attempt to ‘legitimize’ its annexation of Ukrainian territory has no chance of success outside Russian-controlled propaganda media and the history textbooks that Russia is rewriting.  The most fundamental reason is, of course, that Russia first sought to give a cosmetic coating to its invasion and seizure by gunpoint of Ukrainian territory by staging a ‘referendum’ with a predetermined outcome, and is now staging ‘elections’, all similarly at gunpoint.  

The ‘elections’ are, or should be, illegal even according to Russian legislation as they are taking place during martial law declared by Russian president Vladimir Putin back on 20 October 2022 and not withdrawn.  Ukraine’s independent election monitor, OPORA, has pointed out that the legislative norms pushed through in Russia to allow what is prohibited by law is, predictably, contradictory and mutually exclusive.

Instead of correctly refusing to have any part in such a stunt, Russia’s Central Election Commission instead announced that the lists of candidates for annexed territory would not be published, explaining this as “measures of increased security”.  These are, in any case, ‘elections’ based on party lists, with it highly likely that the only parties that those ‘voters’ who don’t just wildly place ticks on the sheet will have heard of are Russia’s ruling ‘United Russia’ party and, perhaps, the communist party. As mentioned, it is known in advance that ‘United Russia’ will be said to have gained an overwhelming majority, and most of the real ‘candidates’ – many Russian officials, as well as local collaborators, are clearly on their list.  Russia is imitating ‘pluralism’ by flooding the ballot papers with unknown ‘parties’, whose ‘candidates’, where these are known, appear to be pensioners, housewives or students. 

Russia is not only using the evident danger of staging ‘elections’ amid active warfare as a ploy for concealing dodgy party lists.  It is also carrying out so-called ‘early voting’ with this having begun on 1 September and due to continue until 10 September. 

Pavlo Lisiansky, Director of the Institute for Strategic Research and Security, has noted that there were other compelling grounds for the aggressor state’s decision to organize such ‘early’ voting over several days. Local residents do not want to take part in this farcical stunt, so the so-called ‘electoral commissions’ with military backup, come to them.  The period was stretched out as the occupation authorities knew that it would take time to force people to take part.  By 8,9 and 10 September most of the ‘ballot papers’ will have already been shoved into the boxes.  Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, reported on 3 September that this was the fourth day of such supposed voting.  He noted that many Ukrainians try to simply not answer the door, with the armed ‘electoral commissions’ sometimes returning several times.

Each such travelling ‘electoral commission’ is accompanied by occupation ‘police’ and soldiers from Rosgvardia, however the latter are not supposed to be photographed.  Moscow is intent on showing residents ‘voluntarily voting’ with the Kalashnikov rifles all too obviously demonstrating that the contrary is the case.

In fact, photographs are available, with RIA Melitopol reporting on 3 September that some of those implicated in the electoral charade appear to be boasting of their ‘military escort’.

Pseudo election armed ’mobile electoral commission’ Photo posted by RIA Melitopol

Pseudo election armed ’mobile electoral commission’ Photo posted by RIA Melitopol

Russia is also extracting ‘votes’ from those Ukrainians deported or forced to leave for Russia (for want of any other means of escaping Russia’s bombing, for example, of Mariupol).  Lisiansky and his colleagues are presently compiling a list of the areas where Ukrainians were sent and where such ‘polling stations’ have been established.

If all of the above were not absurd enough, there is worse.  According to Lisiansky, members of the so-called ‘electoral commissions’ can decide, “in the event of it being impossible to deliver ballot papers on time” to themselves ‘prepare ballot papers’ on the spot.   Lisiansky spells out just what this means: “right on the street the occupiers can write on any piece of paper that this is a ‘ballot paper’ and force people to vote since, after all, they are carrying out such ‘voting’ with ‘Rosgvardia’ fighters watching. This is not even imitation of the process, but pure mockery of it.”.  

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