Russia is conducting local elections this weekend in regions of Ukraine under their occupation. Aiming to solidify their grip on territories they illegally annexed a year ago. The elections, which are taking place in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, have been strongly criticized by Kyiv and the Western world.
The Council of Europe, Europe’s primary human rights body, has condemned the elections as a “flagrant violation of international law,” a sentiment echoed by the Ukrainian parliament. Kyiv has emphasized that holding elections in areas where active hostilities continue poses a significant threat to Ukrainian lives. Lawmakers have urged other nations not to recognize the results of this vote.
Elections Amidst Russian Local Polls
For Russia, these elections serve the purpose of maintaining the appearance of normalcy in the annexed regions, despite the Kremlin’s incomplete control over them, according to political analyst Abbas Gallyamov. He explained, “The Russian authorities are trying hard to pretend that everything is going according to plan, everything is fine. And if everything is going according to plan, then the political process should go according to plan.”
The election process involves the selection of regional legislatures, which will subsequently appoint regional governors. In Donetsk and Luhansk, thousands of candidates are competing for seats on various local councils.
These elections coincide with other local elections in Russia. In the occupied regions, early voting began last week, with election officials going door to door or setting up makeshift polling stations in public areas to attract voters.
The primary contender in these elections is United Russia, the party loyal to President Vladimir Putin that dominates Russian politics. However, other parties, including the Communist Party and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, are also on the ballots.
For some residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014, the elections may not appear unusual. A resident of Luhansk, Sergei, stated, “For the last nine years, we’ve been striving to get closer to Russia, and Russian politicians are well-known to us. We’re speaking Russian and have felt like part of Russia for a long time, and these elections only confirm that.”
Similarly, some voters in Donetsk expressed their love for Russia and their desire to be a part of it. These sentiments highlight the complex and deeply rooted issues surrounding the occupied territories of Ukraine, where geopolitical tensions persist.