On Monday, Russia declared that the political party of President Vladimir Putin had won elections in the four Ukrainian areas that the Kremlin had unlawfully invaded the previous year.
Despite Kyiv’s forces regaining large swaths of terrain in the regions, the Russian-installed legislature in each territory started casting ballots last week.
According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, politicians running in Putin’s party, The United Russia Party, won almost 70% of the vote in the territories of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Kherson seized by Russia in September. The results of the vote have not been made public.
Kyiv and its Western allies saw the elections as an attempt by Russia to strengthen control over the regions, which they see as illegal.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, said that they reject the futile attempt by the Kremlin to normalize and legitimize its illegal control and attempts to annex parts of Ukraine’s territories. He said the European Union recognized neither the elections nor the results. The Russian political elite and its organizers will be held accountable for their criminal conduct.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s army is making gains in the seized regions; therefore, the outcome of the elections may not matter much. According to reports, the Kyiv military has won major wins, freeing cities like Urozhaine in Donetsk and Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia. They have also made some progress around Bakhmut in Donetsk recently.
However, Russia still controls some of the land despite Ukraine retaking the city of Kherson in November.
Local elections in mainland Russia and Crimea, which Putin seized in 2014, coincided with voting in the contested Ukrainian areas. According to reports from Russian officials, there were reportedly efforts to disrupt votes in the four regions seized of Ukraine.
The findings have been called into question on social media.