The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Andrii Lavreniuk, Brussels based Ukrainian journalist

We will soon witness another of Kremlin’s attempts to push through the international recognition of annexation and occupation of Ukrainian Crimea by Russia. A key step in this hybrid of political and diplomatic processes will be the elections to the lower house of the Parliament of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, on 18 September. Illegal elections will also be organised on the territory of Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol. The occupied territories are to choose 4 deputies based on the majoritarian single-member districts system. Crimeans will also vote for 225 deputies from party lists in the multi-member district.

UNDER PUTIN’S PLAN CRIMEA IS READY FOR “LEGALISATION”

The idea is that international recognition of the Duma elections, in Kemlin’s eyes, will mean the legalisation of the so-called people’s representatives from Crimea and Sevastopol. In addition, the vote of Crimean people for multimember districts would make these areas an inalienable part of Russia.

This is the main reason why, in the run-up to the elections, Putin abolished the Crimean Federal District in order to facilitate formal legal “legalisation” and not to irritate international observers. He added the peninsula to the Southern Federal District with the center in Rostov.

At the moment, political, diplomatic and expert circles are continuing discussions in the search for answers to the following questions:

– Should the State Duma elections on 18 September and its new composition be fully or partially recognised, in view of the apparent illegitimacy of the elections in the occupied territory of Crimea and Sevastopol?

– Could it be that even a partial recognition of the new Duma (without the four Crimean deputies) would mean a formal approval of the annexation of Crimea? The voices of hundreds of thousands of peninsula’s inhabitants would nonetheless influence the election of half of Parliament’s members (225 of 450) from multimember districts.

Particularly sensitive for the West is the full non-recognition of the elections and the legitimacy of the new Duma. We must understand that the full non-recognition of elections (not just in Crimea) politically and legally would mean a partial non-recognition of legitimacy of all those in power in Russia. In this case, the state would be left without its legislative branch.

KREMLIN HAS ALREADY BOUGHT ELECTION OBSERVERS

As we know, the main responsible for elections in Europe is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which operates under the auspices of the OSCE. ODIHR epresentatives were invited to observe the Russian parliamentary elections and they have already started their activities in Russia. However, they have categorically refused to work on the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.

It is obvious that the reputable democratic international organisations and individual governments do not recognise the election process and its results in the Crimea and Sevastopol. But the Kremlin certainly has found a “reputable” European observers for Crimea. This has already happened on the so-called referendum in March 2014. European political outsiders, experts serving (certainly not for free) the interests of Moscow in Europe will be brought to the peninsula. Among them may be current MEPs and members of national and regional parliaments of some EU member states. It will also be interesting to hear the position of the CIS Observation Mission, fully controlled by Russia.

EU’s official position was expressed by the spokesperson: “The participation of diplomats of member countries in the observer activities of the OSCE will be limited to the recognised territories of the Russian Federation. Under no circumstances will the territories of illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol will be included.”

Traditionally, the European Union condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia and stressed its nonrecognition. The EU is resolute in supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and noted that its assessment of elections to the State Duma will be based on report of the OSCE (ODIHR) after 18 September.

WESTERN DIPLOMACY CAN BECOME “A LITTLE PREGNANT”

Hence, the West will not enter into further confrontation with unpredictable Putin by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the entire system of Russian government. Experienced diplomats will, of course, invent political formula to say that elections were held, but in Crimea, they are not recognised.

However, it is clear that in this situation, the most honest action would be for the civilised world to not recognise these elections and the new State Duma. Here I want to mention a popular wisdom that “you cannot be a little pregnant.”

The illegal elections in Crimea are automatically transferring the illegitimacy to the entire composition of the new Russian parliament, the entire election process and the legislative branch of the state.

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