Ukraine on Saturday condemned Russia’s plans to hold presidential elections in the occupied territory next year.
Declaring the election “null and void”, the Ukrainian foreign ministry threatened to prosecute any international observers sent to monitor the ballot.
Russia’s upper house has set the date for the country’s next presidency for 17 March next year, although the outcome is already a foregone conclusion with little organized political opposition left in the country.
President Vladimir Putin will run for president again, he announced Friday at an awards ceremony staged in the Kremlin where war veterans implored him to seek re-election.
“I will not hide it from you – I have different thoughts about this over time, but now, you are right, a decision must be made,” Mr Putin said in a video released by the Kremlin after the event.
“I am running for president of the Russian Federation.”
The 71-year-old autocrat has been in power since 1999, barring a four-year stint as prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev, during which he is widely regarded as still at the helm of the Kremlin.
The chair of the upper house of Russia, Valentina Matviyenko, declared that the residents of the four occupied Ukrainian regions can vote for the first time.
“We call on the international community to resolutely condemn Russia’s intention to hold presidential elections in the occupied territories of Ukraine, and to impose sanctions on those involved in their organization and behavior,” the foreign ministry responded in Ukraine.
“Any election in Russia has nothing to do with democracy. They only serve as a tool to maintain the power of the Russian regime.”
Russia claimed to have annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions in eastern and southern Ukraine in September last year. In fact it only controls parts of it.
It illegally seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Mr Putin has instituted martial law in those areas, and Russian lawmakers have amended regulations to allow elections in territories where martial law is in place. Russian authorities held elections in the annexed regions in September for legislatures set up in Moscow; Ukraine and its Western allies denounced the votes as a fraud.
On Thursday, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said that together with the Russian military, security forces and governors appointed by Moscow in Ukraine, the election authorities will decide on December 12 the “possibility of holding” the presidential vote. in the Ukrainian regions.
“After evaluating all the advantages and disadvantages, we will make this decision. If we decide (to continue the vote), the next step is to adopt a plan for holding elections there,” it was quoted said Ms Pamfilova to the Interfax news agency. [while] it is somewhat different from voting in Russian regions, it is allowed by law.
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