March 18, 2018 – Fort Russ –
By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –
“European” Ukraine has consistently, consciously, and openly hindered Russians’ right to vote in the Russian presidential elections at several polling precincts at Russia’s Embassy in Kiev and consulates in Lvov, Odessa, and Kharkov. In addition to attacking Russia, Hungary, and Poland’s diplomatic missions, Ukrainian Nazi groups have now also put up obstacles to the realization of democratic processes for Russian citizens. The fact that these organizations are subordinate to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and SBU is an altogether separate question. Until now, Kiev has not formally been involved. But now Kiev has openly, officially crossed the line.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Russian presidential elections, today, March 18th, 2018, have seen the Kiev regime introduce a new practice into international diplomacy. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine officially announced that it will not let Russian citizens living on Ukrainian territory access polling stations at diplomatic missions. On March 16th, Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, openly wrote on his Facebook that the ministry would strive to prevent Russian citizens from accessing their diplomatic missions in order to vote in the Russian elections.
Meanwhile, the more than four million Ukrainian migrant workers in Russia have all the opportunities to exercise their electoral rights at Ukrainian diplomatic establishments in the Russian Federation.
Today, Ukrainian police blocked the entrances to Russia’s consulates in Odessa and Kiev, in which they were aided by “volunteers” from Ukrainian Nazi groups. For example, in both Kharkov and Kiev Ukrainian “nationalists” from Svoboda and Right Sector picketed Russian diplomatic institutions. Ukrainian Nazis have also threatened to erect a “wall of shame” for Russian citizens who come to polling stations. Those daring to come to vote are thus threatened with humiliation in the very least and physical assault and even murder in the extreme.
The situation that has arisen is so dangerous that international authorities must react. However, the press secretary for the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Thomas Rymer, has evasively stated: “Actually, a voting process in another country is regulated by bilateral agreements between the two countries. I know no international standards in the field. There are bilateral agreements on the voting procedure between countries, so we are not the organization that can comment on this.”
Translated from the language of diplomacy into ordinary human speech, Rymer simply washed his hands of the matter.
There can be no doubt that if Russia had decided to “prevent” four million Ukrainian migrant workers on its territory from voting in Ukrainian presidential or parliamentary elections, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Western countries would launch a powerful denunciation campaign. In this case, the very same OSCE would undoubtedly accuse Russia of violating “international standards.”
Ukraine has established a dangerous precedent. Following a series of attacks by Ukrainian Nazis on Russian, Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian social and state institutions, Kiev has moved on to the next stage of officially banning the exercising of the right to vote for foreign citizens living in Ukraine. In other words, it has denied basic civil rights recognized on the international level.
By not noticing these violations, the OSCE has demonstrated its open bias which, as we have proven countless times before, is no less prejudiced when it comes to the battlefields of Donbass. Perhaps Russia’s diplomats will challenge this glaringly negative precedent and propose it for discussion at the UN Security Council, or at least we can hope so.
Why has Kiev found it necessary to opt for such a fragrant violation of international law? Is this merely part of the Ukrainian state’s innate desire to humiliate Russia out of weakness? In my opinion, these actions of the Kiev authorities are a softened alternative to war in Donbass which they are apparently not ready to launch in the coming days.
This ban on exercising civil rights, along with Poroshenko’s boorish statement in solidarity with the British foreign minister’s allegations against Russia, smack of impotence and a complete lack of political culture on the part of Ukraine’s rulers. They also demonstrate a desire to provoke Russia to engage in sharp responses.
The paradox is that weak and broken Ukraine is behaving aggressively against a strong Russia that has hitherto demonstrated Olympian calm. But will this calm last forever? I don’t think so.
I remain firmly committed to my opinion that Russia’s diplomatic and political leadership committed a gross error in recognizing the new Ukrainian government.
I am convinced that the time has come to take more decisive and offensive measures against the Kiev regime, which has lost all sense of reality and has been reduced to an obedient tool of Western countries whose violations of democratic norms go “unnoticed.” The time has come to reconsider Russian diplomacy’s basic errors. Russian citizens in Ukraine are suffering.
Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation.