Image of Ukrainian flag on monument
News and Updates

IFES Condemns Russian Sham Elections on Occupied Ukrainian Lands


The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) condemns Russia’s attempts to legitimize the illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory by organizing so-called Russian presidential elections on Ukrainian territory it has invaded and now occupies. Scheduled for March 15-17, with reports of early voting under military coercion already occurring, these activities are a clear contravention of the Geneva Conventions. 

 No political activity is more important to a democracy than free and fair elections. Elections can only be held in legitimately governed territory; no portion of Ukraine under Russian occupation is recognized as Russian territory by the international community. Russian elections held on Ukrainian territory occupied through illegal occupation following its brutal invasion clearly lack any basis for legitimacy.   

 We join the international community in condemning and refusing to recognize Russia’s sham elections. The G7, in a detailed Leaders’ Statement, affirmed that members “will never recognise so-called ‘elections’, past and future, held by Russia in the territories of Ukraine, nor their results. Russia’s stated intention to hold votes for its Presidential elections in Ukrainian regions is an outrageous violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.” The European Union, in a statement from High Representative Josep Borrell, characterized Russia’s actions as not only illegitimate but a “blatant violation of international law.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s official statement described Russia’s plans as “nothing more than a propaganda exercise.”  

 IFES applauds these statements for their clear recognition of the reality that these are elections in name only. We furthermore echo the Ukrainian Central Election Commission’s condemnation of those who may seek to observe this process and, through their actions, support an occupying force's attempts to add a veil of legitimacy to a non-democratic and illegal process. 

 Lastly, as noted by IFES experts in a 2023 Politico article, we remind the international community that there will be nothing free or fair about these “elections.” They are being stage-managed purely for propaganda purposes. 

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is not only an assault against a sovereign country but against democracy everywhere. This has not stopped Ukraine from moving further toward the global family of democracies. IFES has stood, stands, and will continue to stand with and for a democratic, European Ukraine—the direction that Ukrainian citizens have consistently favored through their legitimate democratic processes. We are unwavering in our commitment to contributing to a free, whole, and democratic Ukraine.