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.

Russians with machine guns ensure occupied Ukraine ‘votes’ for Putin

Halya Coynash
Few will fail to 'vote for Putin' when there's a fighter with a machine gun accompanying the 'ballot box', but the Russians are also using other methods, as well as exploiting children for 'election' propaganda
’Voting’ Photo posted by East Human Rights Group, Children used for propaganda about the fake elections Screenshot from the News of Donbas video
’Voting’ Photo posted by East Human Rights Group, Children used for propaganda about the fake elections Screenshot from the News of Donbas video

‘Electoral commissions’ in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast have already begun their rounds in Russia’s fake ‘presidential elections’ with men brandishing machine guns ensuring both ‘turnout’ and ‘votes for Vladimir Putin’.   The outcome of this electoral stunt is predetermined in Russia too, but in newly occupied parts of Ukraine the Kremlin is demanding both a huge turnout, as well ‘overwhelming support’ for Putin.  Machine guns are the most effective form of ‘election campaigning’, but the occupiers appear to also be bussing in ‘voters’ from the Russian Federation, and ‘registering total strangers in the homes of people forced to flee after the Russian invasion. 

Any ‘observers’ of Russia’s fake elections on occupied territory have, since May 2014, been those invited by Moscow for their pro-Kremlin position.  Given the lack of independent observers and media, it is not possible to double-check information, with human rights groups and independent Ukrainian media clearly unable to name their sources, without placing the latter in great danger.

RIA-Melitopol has learned from residents of villages around Melitopol about the visitations they are receiving from three ‘electoral commission’ members and two men with machine guns.  Residents have complained to them that, under such circumstances, it is virtually impossible to refuse to ‘vote’. 

I asked what will happen if I don’t vote”.  The members of the commission looked at me as if I was mad and asked “Are you sure you want to do that?”  They then turned and looked at the men with machine guns. Of course, everything became clear” – the publication was told by a resident of Melitopol raion.   Russian propaganda publications show upbeat photos and videos, trying to pretend that everybody wants to take part.  RIA-Melitopol believes this is far from the case, and points out that in one case, a homeowner set his dogs on the ‘commission’.  The armed men, however, shot at one of the dogs.

The East Human Rights Group reported at the beginning of this early voting farce that they had learned of two residents who were detained and taken to an occupation ‘police station’ and forced to write an ‘explanation’ after they refused to ‘vote’.  The human rights monitors have also been told that the Russians are preventing any, but their own propaganda media, from taking photos or videos of such ‘house-to-house voting’.  Obviously. men with machine guns don’t gel with Russia’s propaganda narrative, but it is not easy to hide them.  RIA-Melitopol was sent a video showing the arrival of a so-called ‘electoral commission’ in one of the villages around Melitopol.  An armed fighter has concealed himself behind the fence, however the man’s machine gun is clearly visible.

RIA-Melitopol has also reported the appearance of coachloads of people from Bashkiria.  Russia has made election rigging even easier by saying that people don’t need to ‘vote’ according to their place of registration.  In fact, such an arrival seems more reminiscent of Soviet propaganda about a ‘multicultural union’ than a serious contribution to vote-rigging.  What is more sinister is the report that people are being ‘registered’ in other people’s homes.   RIA-Melitopol has learned from several residents that “dead souls” are being registered in the apartments of people who left after the full-scale invasion.   One resident told the publication that she has no idea how complete strangers have come to be registered in her neighbour’s apartment.  She stresses that nobody is living there, and she simply goes over there, at her neighbour’s request, to water the plants.  She plans to ring her neighbour and warn her.  While it’s possible that this is simply about fiddling the ‘voting’ statistics, there is obvious concern since the Russian occupiers are already expropriating the homes of those who fled Russia’s invasion, and any such ‘registration’ could be used for such purposes.

All of the above methods are likely to used on all occupied Ukrainian territory, with preparations for mass vote-rigging and intimidation having begun back in February (if not earlier).   It is especially disturbing that occupation ‘schools’ are getting children to draw pictures about these fake ‘elections’ and come up with slogans in support of Putin.  As News of Donbas reported, even Russia’s own legislation prohibits such appalling exploitation of children, which continues regardless.

Russia’s imitation of ‘presidential elections’ to enable Putin, after 24 years in control to call himself ‘president’ for a further two terms, would bear no resemblance to democratic process even if they were held only within the Russian Federation.   By holding them on illegally occupied territory, forcing Ukrainians to take part and using children as propaganda tools, Russia has openly violated international law and invalidated their alleged result, which all democratic countries should refuse to recognize.

See also:  Russia’s ruling party makes food aid dependent on ‘support for Putin’ in occupied Ukraine

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