A few days ago, the Russian state polling institute VZIOM handed over what will be officially announced in the next few days: the expected results of the vote, which will take place until Tuesday evening in the so-called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk and in the Russian-occupied parts of the Zaporizhia and Cherson regions . In Luhansk and Donetsk, 97 percent will vote for Link, in Zaporizhia 87 percent and in Cherson 89 percent.
It is expected that the official results of the so-called “referendums” will move in this area. Russian President Vladimir Putin will use this election result to announce the inclusion of new territories in the Russian Federation in his address to the “Federal Assembly” (both houses of the Russian Parliament) on Friday, similar to the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Various Russian media reported this, citing “voices from the presidential administration.”
There are no international standards
There is no doubt that so-called “referendums” do not meet any internationally valid democratic criteria. First, there is the fact that the votes go against the Ukrainian constitution. On the other hand, there is the frantic pace with which it is being carried out: the date of its implementation was announced only about a week ago.
Independent and trained election observers, such as OSCE observers, are not on site. The Central Election Commission of the “Lugansk People’s Republic” reported that 50 international election observers followed the voting process, but the photos and names could not be determined.
In Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, where refugees from disputed areas have found shelter, an anonymous German election observer reported that he was positive about “referendums” there. This is apparently about Stephen Schaller, managing director of an energy supplier from Hesse, who traveled to the occupied territories on his own initiative. Meanwhile, Schaller was released. And from France, a well-known Putin fan named Andre Shanklow traveled to Cherson to observe the vote.
Recent posts on the topic:
Millions of people have also left the disputed areas over the past seven months, to Ukraine and Europe, but also to Russia. The fact that Russia has set up more than 300 polling stations on its territory does not increase the legitimacy of the referendums in any way. Those Ukrainians in particular who fled west for fear of Russian occupation would not be able to participate in it. Vote – you probably won’t like either. This is evidenced by the experience of “referendums” in Crimea and “people’s republics” in 2014.
There is also the question of which area the votes should apply: while the Russian army has occupied almost the entirety of the Luhansk and Cherson regions, it controls only half of the Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions.
Big differences between regions
So far, no evidence has been found to support the claim that people in the regions are forced to vote. In the “People’s Republics” a majority in favor of annexation is conceivable: there were already strong pro-Russian tendencies among the people in Donbass in 2014. Due to the mass emigration of the middle and upper classes in recent years, the relative proportion of the pro-Russian population has increased. These people have now spent the past eight years physically separated from the Ukrainian state and under the influence of Russian propaganda – and this is having an effect.
The situation is different in the Zaporizhia and Cherson regions: the results of the 2019 parliamentary elections showed that the pro-Russian parties – unlike the Donbass – no longer hope for a majority there. In addition, there are fears in the occupied territories that the partial mobilization announced by Putin may also affect the newly annexed territories – and the male population may soon be forced to fight against Ukraine.
So the vote in Ukraine is underestimated: Mikhail Podoljak, advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter: “Any attempts to paint over the flags a fantasy change nothing for us or our partners.” The referendums made it impossible to continue any diplomatic negotiations with the Russian president.