Alleged Russia monitors in Ukraine’s “referendums” violate many international principles: experts


Foreigners who are routinely cited by Russian state media as international observers of so-called referendums in four regions of Ukraine violate Experts in the field told CNN that many of the international principles of election observation are engaged in nothing more than “political activism”.

“What they are doing is not election monitoring at all,” said Anton Chekhovtsov, who reports on sham election observation for the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), an EU- and German-backed NGO. “It is political activity masquerading only as election observation.”

Over the past week, the Russian state news agency TASS has regularly reported the observations of people it calls international observers as evidence that the so-called referendums taking place in the occupied parts of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions of Ukraine are free and fair.

“Being here, I can see with my own eyes that people are voting voluntarily,” TASS quoted German energy director Stefan Schnaller as saying in an article published on Saturday. Schnaler was talking about the people in the Zaporizhzhya region, Ukraine.

The EPDE, which promotes best practices for election conduct and election observation, says an election observer should never extrapolate from individual experience to the integrity of an entire election.

“Observers cannot properly assess elections when they are not members of a long-term observation mission and when they are making public statements based solely on their own limited observation,” EPDE said.

Schaller was fired “with immediate effect” on Monday – two days after the TASS article was published – by his employer, German energy company Energie Waldeck-Frankenberg (EWF). In a statement, the EWF said Schnaller’s behavior “clearly violates the worldview, ethical values ​​and company philosophy.”

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In 2005, the United Nations endorsed a set of principles for international election observation.

Among them was that the international election observation mission should respect the “sovereignty of the country holding the elections”, and that the host country – in this case, Ukraine – should extend an invitation to international observers. Neither of these principles is fulfilled in this case.

Katja Androsch, spokeswoman for the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights at The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Russia is a member.

Andros told CNN that “there is no legal basis for these referendums.”

The United Nations has also made it clear that “international election observation missions should not accept funding or infrastructure support from the government whose elections are being monitored.”

Experts said this principle is routinely violated.

Tass cited Pyatt Reed, an American for Russia’s state news agency Sputnik, as an observer at a polling station in Sevastopol, Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. His accounts have also been quoted by him. An experience that “everything I’ve seen so far has been very transparent and very open.”

A Russian flag is displayed at the Pedagogical University in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, which is controlled by Russia-backed separatists, Tuesday.

Chekhovtsov from EPDE, He told CNN that it was a “solid work” for Russia to bring together a patchwork of so-called experts to falsely legitimize their votes.

“They do it all the time,” he said. “They sent similar observers to the so-called referendum in Crimea in March 2014.”

They usually send people who are somehow related or related to different Russian actors. People from the Russian networks of influence in the West. Sometimes such people are already resident in Russia, so they will not live in their countries of origin. Sometimes these are politicians, coming mostly from the fringes, so they are from the far right and far left. Sometimes they used different journalists and activists.”

At least one of the so-called monitors cited by TASS is on the list of known “fake” and “biased” monitors maintained by EPDE.

EPDE says Janlisbert Velasco, who had previously “watched” Russia’s parliamentary elections in annexed Crimea, met its criteria for being a “fake” observer. TASS quoted Velasco as an observer from Venezuela who said that people in occupied Donetsk did not mind that their ballot papers were not secret.

Another example He is Gianfranco Festuto, and he He was cited by TASS as an “Italian observer”. Speaking on Saturday, he appeared to dismiss the referendum result. Although the vote ended on Tuesday, Festuto described the process in Donbass as “a voluntary and free reunion with Russia”. Festuto is a little known Italian politician and pro-Putin who founded an offshoot of the far-right Lega party.

“They are not election observers,” said Chekhovtsov. It’s just a political activity. It is a political activity. It has nothing to do with election monitoring.”

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