No Russians to observe Ukraine elections, Kremlin confirms

11 February 2019

No Russian citizens will participate in the OSCE ODIHR mission observing the presidential elections in Ukraine, the Russian government confirmed on Feb. 8 after parliament approved legislation the prior day forbidding their accreditation and the OSCE said it would comply. “The Russian side, in consideration of security concerns for our representatives in the ODIHR observing mission, decided to abstain from dispatching them to Ukraine” said a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, after the OSCE ODIHR was reported to have already decided to exclude them.

 

The same day as the Foreign Ministry statement, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the parliament’s decision to prohibit Russian observers would reduce the legitimacy of the elections. At the same time, “that doesn’t mean that Russia won’t recognize these elections,” he said, as reported by the rbc.ru news site.

 

After parliament approved legislation forbidding Russian observers, the OSCE published a letter from ODIHR Director Ingibjorg Gisladottir to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry expressing “deep disappointment” for the decision. She stressed that ODIHR observers are trained to uphold its strict code of conduct, which includes being strictly objective and not interfering in elections.

 

“The decision to deny the possibility of accreditation of citizens of one participating state is without precedent and contravenes commitments made by all participating states to invite observers from any other OSCE participating states that may wish to observe election proceedings to the extent permitted by law,” she said in the Feb. 7 release. The next day however, spokesman Thomas Rymer said ODIHR will not send two Russian observers for what had been planned as its 92-member Ukrainian elections long-term observing mission, in compliance with the newly approved legislation.

 

Zenon Zawada: The most significant development from this episode is Peskov’s statement keeping open the possibility for the Kremlin to recognize the elections. This means the Kremlin sees a legitimate possibility for Yulia Tymoshenko or Volodymyr Zelenskiy to win, as well as the chance to strike a better deal on Donbas with either of these two candidates. Meanwhile, the absence of Russian observers in these elections won’t affect their validity or recognition in the developed world.

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