On March 15-17, 2024, Russia plans to hold so-called presidential election, in particular, in the occupied territories of Ukraine. As seen during the previous 10 years of Russian occupation of certain areas of the Donbas region, this election will be used as an attempt to legalize the annexation of invaded territories. However, involvement of local population in pseudo-election process in the conditions of armed hostilities, which may lead to civilian casualties, violates the international humanitarian law concerning protection of the civilian population during an armed conflict and may be qualified as a war crime. The above comments were made by Civil Network OPORA’s lawyer during an interview with online media outlet “Novyny Donbasu”.

 “This pseudo-election process has nothing to do with genuine elections. The immutability of power or alternation of power as a mere formality coupled with the absence of democratic rights and freedoms leads to delegitimization of such power”, he said.

OPORA’s lawyer noted that the public sector employees are being actively involved in the organization of the so-called election process in the occupied territories. At the same time, coercion of local residents with the aim of getting them involved in the so-called election commissions, election observation and voting in illegal election constitutes a war crime. By mobilizing local population to participate in illegal elections in the occupied territories where active hostilities are taking place, the Russians deliberately put their lives in danger, which violates the international humanitarian law concerning protection of the civilian population during an armed conflict.

 “The occupiers are trying to use illegal elections as a tool of pseudo-legalization of illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, thereby violating the provisions of international law accepted by the majority of countries, including the Russian Federation. As has been repeatedly stated by the UN General Assembly since 2014, their actions constitute a violation of the UN Charter on International Organizations as well as the key principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of state borders”, he said.

OPORA’s lawyer also gave advice to Ukrainian citizens living in the occupied territories on the best course of action in the context of illegal Russian election: “Don’t participate in this profanation, if you have an opportunity to do so. However, we understand what sort of coercive methods can be used. They’ve been used before and will be used this time round as well. I’m talking about the so-called “field groups” of armed people. It is hardly possible to ensure free expression of the will and independent observation of election held at gunpoint”.