Update: Russian Propaganda Outlets Push to Delegitimize Ukrainian Elections

Russian propaganda outlets are seeking to turn the Ukrainian Central Electoral Committee’s (CEC) decision by to close all polling stations in Russia into an attempt to destabilize the fast-approaching presidential elections. They claim that Ukraine’s decision “paves the way to various falsifications,” violating the constitutional rights of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, and thereby supposedly renders the presidential elections “illegitimate.”

This is yet another concerted effort to spread disinformation, sow mistrust, and destabilize Ukraine during this pivotal time.

Since 2012, Ukrainian polling stations have operated in many countries, including Russia; Ukrainian citizens living abroad use them to vote in elections. Five of these polling stations were in Russia. On December 31, 2018, the Ukrainian CEC closed these polling sites for security reasons.

“We cannot guarantee that on voting day no dangerous provocations will be there,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin explained. However, for those Kremlin propagandists ignoring Russia’s recent provocations, the closure of polling stations previously used by Ukrainians in Russia yields more “evidence” of “rigged elections” in Ukraine.

A member of the Russian CEC, Yevgeniy Shevchenko, claimed that such a measure discriminates against those Ukrainians “who choose Russia as a place to live and work, who escaped from Poroshenko’s regime.” Supposedly, these Ukrainian citizens are excluded from voting because “they will never support the establishment that encourages Bandera marches and glorifies fascism.”

These claims are saturated in irony given that they emanate from an authoritarian government that stifles protests led by citizens disgruntled and distraught over the Kremlin’s corruption. Such aggressive disinformation efforts call for Ukraine’s allies to defend and uphold Ukraine’s right to host democratic presidential elections in March 2019.