Russia Conducts Contested Elections in Seized Ukrainian Territories Amid Condemnation and Military Advances


In the regions of Ukraine claimed by Russia in the prior year, elections are currently in progress. The individuals residing in these Russian-seized territories are being advised to participate in what the authorities are defining as local elections. Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has labelled these polls a complete sham, stating unequivocally that they will carry no legal significance.

The list of candidates consists entirely of Russians or pro-Russian advocates, including governors directly chosen by Moscow. A significant number of individuals participating in the early voting have been instructed to cast their vote under the watchful eyes of armed Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian officials issued a stern warning, announcing that any Ukrainian citizens participating in the orchestration of these elections will face punitive action in the future. The Council of Europe, an organization for human rights, has criticised the move in the unlawfully annexed Ukrainian regions as a glaring breach of international law, which Russia continues to flout.

The Council expressed concerns that while these regions are an essential part of Ukraine, conducting elections there only fosters a false image of democracy. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined the condemnation, declaring these elections in the occupied areas of Ukraine as illegitimate, which prompted a rebuttal from the Russian embassy in the US, accusing Washington of intruding into Moscow’s internal matters.

The concluding polls are set to take place on Sunday in four areas, including Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – regions that Russia does not entirely control. Together these consist of approximately 15% of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Additionally, elections are also progressing in Crimea, illegally occupied by Russia since 2014, concurrently with local polls in Russia.

Images shared from the election commission in Russia offer a surreal insight into the polling stations, ranging from standard setups in schools and administrative buildings, to residential backyards and even street benches. An eerie constant in these pictures features voters submitting their votes into boxes under the stern and armed scrutiny of Russian soldiers.

The election commission claims a voter turnout exceeding 50% in Kherson and 40% in Donetsk for the so-called regional parliaments, a figure significantly higher than those seen in Russian regional polls in the past decade.

The exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, derided the elections as unauthorized and futile, emphasizing that many candidates in the Zaporizhzhia region are not locals, some even arriving from Siberia, the extreme east of Russia. He drew attention to the fact that voting in an occupied city feels eerily similar to voting in a prison.

In a divergent move, Ukrainians have been permitted to vote using their Ukrainian passports, possibly due to the substantial number of Ukrainian inhabitants who have not embraced Russian citizenship.

Ukrainian forces are making advances, particularly in the Zaporizhzhia region – one of the areas where Russia is currently holding elections. Analysts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War have reported significant tactical advances in the area. Ukraine’s military endeavors are primarily focused on the village of Robotyne, with Kyiv aiming to cut the Russian supply lines supporting Moscow’s forces in the southern section of the Kherson region.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky voiced his concern that Moscow’s predominance in the aerial sphere was hindering their counter-offensive measures. He also conveyed his dissatisfaction with the complications and delay in arms delivery and sanctions on Russia by the West.

Ukraine has been earnest in its efforts to acquire American-made F-16 fighter jets to counterbalance Russia’s superior position in the air. Although some aircraft are expected to be delivered, it will be months before Kyiv will be able to utilize them operationally.

In conclusion, President Zelensky juxtaposed his troops’ progress with the languishing pace of Western support, assertively declaring his troops’ actions to be more swift than the execution of new sanction packages.


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