The Russians have started to celebrate “Elections for local councils and legislatures” in the Ukrainian-occupied territoriesreported the Ukrainian National Resistance Center on Thursday.
Four Russian parties are taking part in these elections, including the pro-Russian United Russia, while the other three parties are independent in name only and strictly controlled by the Kremlin. Voting in the polling stations will take place over three days between September 8th and 10th. The Ukrainian National Residence Center explains that the reason for such a long duration is an attempt hide the low interest of local residents.
On the other hand, the call The “early voting” has started in the occupied regions of Zaporizhia and Donetsk and will begin on September 2 in the occupied regions of Luhansk and Kherson.
Currently, members of the election commissions, accompanied by Russian soldiers, are visiting the houses of local residents. As the mayor of the occupied city of Skadovsk, Oleksandr Yakovlev, assured local Ukrainian media, they were “officially trying to find those” who want to vote, but “actually” they wanted to “intimidate the neighbors into voting.” to their favor.” “They come and say that a person should vote,” he says, adding that elections “have nothing to do with democratic procedures.” According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army, people who were brought from the territory of Russia to the abandoned houses of local residents and resettled are also appearing in this region. “You are preparing fakes and a necessary image for the Russian media.”
Why is Russia holding these elections in the middle of the war with Ukraine?
Almost a third of those officially nominated as MP candidates are residents of Russia, mostly from the Rostov region, Russian opposition politician Ilya Ponomarov told Ukrainian media. “In other words, the residents of the occupied territories do not want to join this tragedy and do not want to take part in this farce,” he said, stressing that “it is merely an imitation of democratic procedures.”
In 2022, the Russians already implemented a similar plan in the “referendum” that served as a pretext for Russia to annex four partially occupied Ukrainian territories. According to a report by the National Resistance Center Russia plans to move around 300,000 people from its territory to the devastated city of Mariupol by 2035. “To boost them, the Kremlin has launched a concessionary mortgage program for citizens of the Russian Federation. In addition, the invaders bring workers and officials from the backward regions of the Russian Federation to the temporarily occupied areas.”
Ukrainian human rights NGOs warn of the growing danger The continued exodus of Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied territories and the influx of Russian civil servants, teachers and workers could lead to enormous demographic changes in the occupied territories. Russia is also making life increasingly difficult for those neighbors who do not apply for a Russian passport. Russian citizenship has become a requirement for obtaining it many basic government services such as education or health care. According to a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in April, people who do not obtain Russian citizenship could be deported from July 2024.
And the fact is that many go of their own free will. For example, in the Sumy region in the northeast, where there is a single border crossing between Russia and Ukraine, it is estimated that more than half the population has left the occupied territories. However, many of those left behind are reluctant to leave their homes and possessions and wait for the Ukrainian troops. Most of them are elderly because they fear losing everything they have built up over the course of their lives. Russian soldiers also use empty houses as barracks.
Russia threatens “undemocratic” elections to cover up the failure of the war in Ukraine
“The valuables inside are regularly stolen”, says Larissa, a displaced resident of the Kherson region, to LA RAZÓN. “Because many older people refuse to walk or simply cannot walk because they are ill or too frail, in many cases their children are also forced to stay to look after them,” he explains.
Barely able to turn to the judiciary for help, their best hope is to avoid a confrontation with the occupation authorities. The gruesome discoveries of torture chambers and mass graves in the retaken areas suggest that similar practices persist in the areas that have not yet been liberated.
According to a report by the human rights organization OPORA, Russia is also trying to restrict locals’ access to Ukrainian and independent media. Up to a thousand websites are blocked in the occupied territories while Russian propaganda is spread on television, radio and the internet.
“Russia is actively trying to convince its neighbors that Ukraine will never get their land back. It is also trying to spread the narrative that portrays those who remain in the occupied territories as traitors in the eyes of the rest of the Ukrainians,” writes Anatoliy Bondarchuk of OPORA. “While adults are better at resisting, less can be done to protect children who are being indoctrinated in schools that are rewriting history to blame Ukraine for all the destruction,” adds a displaced Mariupol resident.
Nevertheless, resistance in the occupied territories continues. It takes many forms. Some are involved in the Yellow Ribbons movement, which leaves Ukrainian national symbols in public spaces. Others risk their lives by sharing the location of enemy forces and troops with Ukrainian forces, and reports of attacks on the Russian army and its local collaborators appear regularly.