Foreign ministers of the G7 and European Union have condemned “sham elections” in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, saying they are meant to legitimize Moscow’s rule in areas illegally seized by force.
The elections took place in Crimea and the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, where President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party says it won at least 70% of the overall vote. Detailed results have yet to be released.
In the statement issued Wednesday, the ministers said the elections are a further violation of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. “Russia has no legitimate basis for any such actions on the territory of Ukraine,” the statement reads.
Watchdogs say the vote was rigged. “[T]hese are not real elections,” said Stanislav Andreychuk, who co-chairs Golos, an independent Russian election monitor.
Andreychuk said he has evidence of widespread political suppression, including opposition candidates being thrown into jail and having their cars vandalized. In one instance, a poll-watcher was even handed draft papers.
United Russia is expected to use the election success it has claimed for itself to exercise unbridled political control in the contested territories, including quashing potential uprisings. The party has appointed a mix of veteran separatist bosses and young pro-Putin officials to regional posts.
Russia already tortures, arbitrarily detains, and forcibly deports dissidents “to instill fear and to suppress Ukrainian culture,” the G7 statement said. As far as the G7 is concerned, these elections will only tighten Moscow’s iron grip.
But the Kremlin claims positive opinion polls and landslide election results are proof that United Russia serves the public interest.