VILNIUS – Lithuania on Monday condemned the elections held by Russia over the weekend in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and vowed a "strong and concrete response" to those involved.
“This illegal step is another desperate attempt by the Kremlin to legitimize control of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, to give the illusion of non-existent legitimacy, further grossly violating international law and Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty, complementing the long list of crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis as saying.
On weekend, Russian authorities held so-called local elections in the four regions of Ukraine that Moscow annexed illegally last year — the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia provinces. Voting for federal and local legislators was also held on the Crimean peninsula, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014.
Balloting in the occupied areas of Ukraine has been denounced by Kyiv and the West as a sham and a violation of international law.
Moscow claimed Sunday that the United Russia party, which staunchly backs President Vladimir Putin, had won local ballots in areas occupied by Russia.
“The international community will never recognize the results of these fake elections. Furthermore, those who contribute to their organization must receive a strong and concrete response,” Landsbergis stressed.
The Foreign Ministry also noted that the fake elections of governors, regional legislatures, and city and municipal councils held in Russia on September 8-10 took place in a context of ongoing and recently significantly strengthened restrictions on civil and political rights.
“At a time of squeezing civic space when almost all representatives of the Russian opposition are jailed or subjected to other unprecedented repression, and when independent international observers have not monitored these fake elections, it is not possible to call the whole process “elections” and recognize their outcome as results,” Landsbergis said.
According to the ministry, through the years of repressive application of laws on “extremist organizations”, “foreign agents”, “undesirable organizations”, and others, the Russian authorities have complemented that with harsh military censorship, stepped up internal repression and politically motivated persecution against opposition representatives, civil society organizations, independent media and others persons critical of the Kremlin regime’s policies.
These actions further restrict human rights, freedom of the press, and civil and political freedoms, prevent many candidates from participating in elections and limit Russian voters’ choice and access to accurate information on candidates, the statement says.