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Thursday, December 8, 2022
HomeWorldWhy Russia's referendums in Ukraine are considered illegitimate

Why Russia’s referendums in Ukraine are considered illegitimate

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Called a farce by Western powers, the annexation referendums promoted by Russia in occupied parts of Ukraine clash not only with the internal laws of the Eastern European country but also precepts of international law.

Regarding the Ukrainian Constitution, in force since 1996, the votes carried out by Moscow under a strong military presence in areas conquered in the war contradict the article that defines that “issues related to alterations in the territory will be resolved exclusively with a referendum involving the entire country”. .

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In the referendums, only the populations of the places to be annexed participated – the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the Donbass, in addition to the provinces of Kherson and Zaporízhia, areas that make up 15% of the country’s territory.

The Constitution also provides that, to be convened, a referendum of this type must be requested by at least 3 million citizens. The final word, in the end, rests with the Rada, the Parliament, and the president — today Volodymyr Zelensky, who has called the process “pseudoreferendums”.

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The annexation process also goes against the UN Charter, the basic text of international law for more than half a century. The document reads: “All members shall avoid in their international relations the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”

Under this interpretation, invading neighboring territory on February 24 was an illegitimate action and holding referendums in a state that is not directly governed is a form of interference that violates the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples.

The passage has served as an argument by different actors, from the UN to Kiev, to denounce Russian aggression. Zelensky, for example, has said that if Moscow does not respect the basic text, it cannot remain a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

There are also excerpts from the Geneva and The Hague Conventions that deal with the rules for the occupation of enemy territory in a war. In this case, occupants gain authority, but must respect, “unless they are absolutely prevented, the laws that were already in force in the country”.

Western powers such as Germany, the US and Poland have already said they will not recognize the referendum result. Liz Truss, the newly elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, said she would never recognize “Russian attempts to annex sovereign territories”.

Between speech and practice, however, there is in memory the example of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2008. Western governments also condemned Moscow’s act at the time, but the fact is that Vladimir Putin assimilated the peninsula without great difficulties.

As expected, under low transparency and with no international follow-up, the referendums were overwhelming victories. In Donetsk, more than 99% would have been in favor of annexation. The lowest number of support was given in Kherson: 87%.

Before the vote, surveys published by news agencies linked to the Kremlin already drew a broadly favorable scenario. A survey led by the American newspaper The Washington Post, with three independent institutes in January – therefore, before the war – drew something different.

The project interviewed 4,000 people living in the Donbass by telephone, both in areas already occupied by Russian separatists and those under Kiev’s control. Overall, 42% said they preferred to stay in Ukraine, 31% said they wanted annexation by Russia and 9% wanted independence.

In the clippings, there were, of course, discrepancies. In Kiev-controlled areas, 72% wanted the territories back in Ukraine. Among the residents of the separatist portions, 49% said they wanted to be part of Russia.

On the Russian side, what was emerging was overwhelmingly favorable support for the annexation of Kherson and Zaporijia, a survey by the independent institute Levada showed in August, with 1,612 Russians: 45% said the regions should be part of Russia, 21% that they should be independent and 14% who should remain Ukrainian. Support for annexation was highest among the population over 55 (51%); in the range of 18 to 24, it was 37%.

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Nina
Nina
I have worked as a journalist for over 8 years. I have written for many different news outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN. I have also published my own book on the history of the world. I am currently a freelance writer and editor, and I am always looking for new opportunities to write and edit interesting content.

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