Elections at various levels have started in Russia today. In a three-day period—from 17 to 19 September, the population will elect the State Duma deputies, heads of 12 constituent entities of the country, as well as deputies of the state power legislative bodies in 39 Russian regions, Interfax reports. This year, residents of the temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions take part in the elections as well.
What has distinguished the 2021 elections in Russia
The current elections are significantly different from the previous ones. For the first time since 1993, Russia decided not to admit observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (ODIHR), motivating its decision by the spread of the coronavirus and anti-epidemiological measures. Among the international observers, only five representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were allowed into the Russian Federation.
The fact that the elections last for three days, according to analysts, will also not allow proper observation of the process. And this, accordingly, increases the risks of rigging the results.
Another peculiarity of the "Russian-style elections" was the inability to monitor what was happening at the polling stations online. This year, only parties whose candidates are running in elections have gained access to this "luxury". The Kremlin based its decision with too high a price for video surveillance of three days' duration.
In addition, this year, Moscow decided to allow residents of the temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions to vote for the first time.
How residents of ORDLO vote
Citizens of the occupied Donbas can cast their vote in two ways: online and by going to the polling stations in Russia, namely in the Rostov region, the newspaper Novosti Donbassa (Donbas News from Russian) reports.
They can use the right to vote online by visiting special "information centers". There are 255 of them in the so-called DPR , in the "LPR"—141 There are consultants with computer equipment who carry out the "voting". In this case, the secrecy of voting is out of the question.
For persons that came from ORDLO who, for some reason, had not registered for the online elections, the Russian authorities organized free transportation by buses and trains to Rostov Region. Initially, this method focused on teachers, doctors, and students. They were added "to the list", and those who refused in writing had to provide an explanation why they did that. In case of refusal to take part in the elections, people were threatened with sanctions, as well as the organizations they work for or they study in.
Reaction of Ukraine and Europe
Back in February 2021, when Russia decided to allow residents of the occupied territories with Russian passports to take part in the elections, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would not recognize their results.
"The participation of the residents of the certain Donbas regions in Russian elections and plebiscites, as well as the issuance of Russian passports to them, is illegal. Russia is deliberately destroying the Minsk agreements and is going to aggravate the Russian-Ukrainian conflict," Pleh Nikolenko, Spokesperson of the Ministry, stressed at that time.
On September 16, the European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling on Brussels not to recognize the result of the Russian elections, and, accordingly, the newly elected Russian parliament.
Context. Earlier this month, the European Union extended sanctions against the Russian Federation for its aggression against Ukraine for another six months. This refers to the personal sanctions against individuals and companies responsible for "undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine."