Putin has committed another crime by holding illegal elections in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
On 10 September 2023, illegal elections organised by Russia will be held in 79 municipal associations of the Russian occupation administrations of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, which are occupied by the Russian army. This is Putin's attempt to legitimise the occupation of Ukrainian territory - a manifestation of Russian arbitrariness, which is a crime and a gross violation of international law.
Ukraine has always had a special place in Putin's plans to resume territorial expansion in the post-Soviet space and towards the countries of the former socialist bloc. The Kremlin's master painfully perceives the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the withdrawal of Ukraine, once the most prosperous part of the Soviet Union, from Russia's sphere of influence. On 24 Febriuary 2022, Putin launched the largest war of aggression of our time, which he called the "Special Military Operation", to regain control of Ukraine. Despite the belief of Russian military leaders that the invasion of Ukraine would be a cakewalk for the Russian army, the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave a robust response to the invaders - the losses of the Russian army were so great that even conscripts and imprisoned criminals were sent to the front.
Due to the SMO, the whole world saw how weak and vulnerable Russia is: the so-called "second army of the world" has used military tactics from the first third of the 20th century and has only achieved convincing success in looting and destroying settlements in Ukraine. Its territorial achievements have been mediocre - Putin, who wanted to capture Kyiv "in three days", managed to occupy 18% of Ukraine's territory (including the territories occupied in 2014), and the Ukrainian Armed Forces are constantly recapturing what Russia has seized, destroying its defences. Therefore, the Kremlin has revised its policy on the occupied territories and seeks to fully integrate them into the Russian Federation, imposing Russian laws on them - the elections in the TOT will be an echo of last year's referendums and will be another crime of the Kremlin in the legitimate territories of Ukraine.
The electoral process will take place in an atmosphere of violence and terror: acts of expression of will of Ukrainians under Russian occupation will take place at gunpoint. It is important to note that during last year's pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine, members of election commissions went around the houses and apartments of Ukrainians with ballot boxes accompanied by armed military personnel, as local residents did not want to live in the Russian Federation. This year's elections will be held in the same spirit, and after them, repressions against the residents of the TOT of Ukraine will intensify: deportation to Russia, forced mobilisation into the bloodless Russian army, and the removal of Ukrainian children to Russia are already the most obvious crimes that will be committed by the Russians.
Russia wants to legitimise the occupation of Ukrainian territory in the eyes of the world. For this purpose, international observers are involved, just as they were during last year's pseudo-referendums in the TOT of Ukraine. These observers repeated the narratives of Russian propaganda, justifying the holding of such referendums. These observers include: Serbian citizen Dragoslav Bokan, German citizens Thomas Röper and Christoph Hörstel, Italian citizens Elisio Bertolazi and Gianfranco Vestuto. Putin wants to create the appearance of the West's consent to Russia's occupation of part of Ukraine and the Kremlin's further crimes in Ukraine.At the same time, the presence of such observers at the pseudo-elections will help the Kremlin to capture Europeans loyal to Russia and continue to use their "services" in the future.
The inviolability of the borders of European countries is enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Agreement. Thus, the Kremlin is not just ignoring the norms and principles of international law: it has set an example for other totalitarian regimes that territorial expansion is quite possible in the modern world. This will lead to a series of wars and conflicts, as well as ethnic cleansing. The above could lead to a comprehensive destabilisation of Europe, which would receive an unprecedented number of refugees on its territory.
Russia is committing crimes against Ukraine and Ukrainians every day - the illegal elections in the temporarily occupied territories were a crime against international law and the UN system, an outrage against Western democratic values. Putin has set a precedent for changing borders by force - this is unacceptable in the 21st century: if the West ignores such arbitrariness of the Russian Federation, it will only inspire the Kremlin to repeat similar crimes. In this case, Europe will not be able to feel safe, and prominent Russian propagandists like Solovyov will be calling for the storming of Budapest, Vienna and Berlin.
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