Elections in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Will Become Another Hybrid Threat to Europe

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Illegal elections in the Temporarily Occupied Territories (TOT) of Ukraine are a gross violation of international law by Russia, as well as an attempt to legitimize the occupation of Ukrainian territory in the eyes of the world community. On September 10, 2023, the Russian Federation will hold elections at various levels, including elections in 79 municipal unions of the Russian occupation administrations of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, which are controlled by the Russian army

Putin miscalculated – the so-called “three-day war” with the aim of quickly occupation of Kyiv, became 18 months of shame for the Russian army – rapists and marauders with rusty Soviet weapons. The SMO, or rather the largest modern war of aggression, quickly unveiled the myth of the “second army of the world”, which managed to achieve military success only in the destruction of civilians and with serious image losses to Putin. The whole world saw how weak Russia is. It is a colossus on clay feet, the country with a large territory but a weak army. The gangof Russian war criminals became the “first army in the world”only in terms of the scale of killing civilians. Currently, Putin has revised his policy on the occupied territories of Ukraine and seeks to fully integrate them into the Russian Federation, eliminating all attributes of Ukrainianness. In particular, in occupied Mariupol, the Russians painted over any Ukrainian symbols, the use of the Ukrainian language was severely punished. Therefore, it is not surprising that the elections in the TOT of Ukraine on September 10 of this year will be an echo of last year’s referendums and will strengthen the Kremlin’s occupation permissiveness in the internationally recognized territories of Ukraine. There is no need to talk about the terror and coercion during the upcoming election: acts of expression of will of Ukrainians who are under Russian occupation will take place at the gunpoints of the Russian occupiers, like it was on September 23-27, 2022, during illegal referendums, when Putin declared 18 % of the territory of Ukraine (parts of the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions) new regions of the Russian Federation. During these events, members of the election commissions were forced to go around the houses and apartments of Ukrainians with ballot boxes, accompanied by armed soldiers, because the local residents rejected to vote for joining the Russian Federation. This year, we can expect a repetition of such a scenario, and after the elections, the repression against the residents of the TOT of Ukraine will intensify. Forced mobilization into the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, deportation to economically backward, remote regions of Russia, adoption of Ukrainian children by Russian families, settlement of Russians in the empty houses of deported local residents – this is not a complete list of the crimes, which will be carried out by the Russians in the occupied territories of Ukraine. If they are not stopped, these crimes will happen in Europe.

Putin wants to legitimize his crimes in the eyes of the world community. International observers are involved for this reason –it took place during last year’s referendums in the TOT of Ukraine. Putin’s followers repeated the narratives of Russian propaganda, justifying the referendums. In particular, these are Serbian citizen Dragoslav Bokan, German citizens Thomas Röper and Christoph Hörstel, British citizen Vanessa Beeley, Italian citizens Eliseo Bertolasi, Gianfranco Vestuto and Gianantonio Micalessin. Putin wants to create the appearance that the West agree with Russia’s occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s subsequent crimes in Ukraine. The presence of European observers at the elections in Ukraine will be a kind of census of odious pro-Russian public figures in Europe – the target audience for Russian propaganda, which is trying to poison the information space of the EU.

The elections in the TOT have become evidence of a hybrid threat to Europe: Putin wants to change the frontiers in Europe, which were considered inviolable – according to the Helsinki Accords of 1975. The Kremlin does not simply ignore the norms and principles of international law: it wants to force the totalitarian regimes of today to change borders by force. This will lead to a series of wars and conflicts, ethnic cleansing and a tsunami of refugees. Thus, the destabilization of Europe, which is Putin’s main goal, is only a matter of time. Ignoring this threat will only bring it closer to the civilized West and make it more vulnerable to Russia.

Putin wants to destroy not only the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but also the UN system. Negotiations with the terrorist state are impossible until the complete withdrawal of its troops from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine. The Russian Federation should receive severe sanctions and find itself in international isolation: every country in the world should contribute to the fight against Putin – the biggest war criminal of our time.

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