Illegitimate Russian government waging war on Europe
On 24 February, military attacks were launched against Ukraine by a Russian government that lacks legitimacy after being elected through unfair and undemocratic elections. This attack was ordered by Putin and his justification for the attack was approved by the State Duma, which unanimously ratified Putin’s decree recognizing the independence of Ukraine’s separatist republics. Both the presidential election of 2018 and the latest parliamentary elections in 2021 took place in an environment where independent civil society, journalists, and opposition candidates faced severe restrictions and were under extreme pressure by the authorities.
In the last presidential election in 2018, Putin allegedly won with a record-breaking 76% of the vote, according to official figures. However, independent election experts estimate that Putin received more than 10 million suspected falsified votes nationwide. In the 2021 State Duma elections, estimates range from 14 - 16 million suspected falsified votes for the ruling party. These figures stem from the findings of independent election observers and experts as well as the analysis of video observation material from more than 9 000 polling stations across Russia.
In Russia’s electoral system, it is near to impossible to vote for an alternative to the ruling party: true opposition candidates can hardly get registered or conduct open campaigns, including holding rallies or protests against the ruling regime. Ahead of the 2021 State Duma elections, experts estimated that approximately 9 million Russian citizens were deprived of the right to stand for election.
While domestic election observation faces enormous pressure and repressions, international election observation was not permitted at all in the 2021 parliamentary elections. Critical civil society is targeted by authorities, which try to repress civil society by all means possible and to cut them off from the international community. This can be seen through the ‘foreign agent’ law that brandmarks NGOs and individuals, imposing additional administrative requirements upon them that can only be described as a form of ‘administrative harassment’. Furthermore, Russian partners risk criminal persecution when cooperating with foreign partners that are designated as ‘undesirable foreign organizations’, further isolating them from the international community.
When speaking about Russian aggression abroad, it is important to keep in mind that this is not being committed by an elected government that represents the will of the people of Russia.
Europe’s and the global West’s response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine must therefore target the elites in power through sanctions that will cut them off from Western money, assets, and travel opportunities. Russian citizens, civil society, and activists standing for democracy, peace, and freedom deserve our ongoing support and solidarity.
The West must therefore increase its support all the more for independent critical Russian civil society. A political change in Russia can only occur through free and fair elections and a vibrant independent civil society.