UK Sanctions Russian Collaborators Following Sham Elections

Published: 29 September 2022

Ukraine MilitaryAs the war continues, Russia attempts to subvert Ukraine’s sovereignty by holding sham elections across its eastern regions. (Photo: Юзеф Венскович/Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Flickr, License)

By Henry Pope

The U.K. announced Monday a wave of sanctions against Russian collaborators responsible for the illegal sham elections held in eastern Ukraine, which have sought to submit its people under the Kremlin’s rule at gunpoint.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated that 92 new sanctions are now in effect against the puppet figures installed in Ukraine by the Kremlin, as well as several wealthy oligarchs who have funded Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war.

The recently held referendums across Zaporozhye, Kherson, Donetsk Oblast, and Luhansk were widely seen as a poorly masked demonstration of democracy, a charade put on by Moscow to legitimize its annexation of Ukraine’s eastern territories.

As the polls closed, evidence of Russian interference came to light in the form of armed soldiers stationed around the ballot boxes, drawing international condemnation.

“Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognise their results.” Cleverly said. “They follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture, and forced deportations in the areas of Ukraine Russia has seized.”

One video on Twitter showed security footage of two armed soldiers shepherding officials holding ballot boxes through a stairwell. Another Telegram video showed residents at a polling station filling out ballots with Russian officials watching from across the table.

Such intimidation tactics have been widely used throughout history to force people to vote against their interests out of fear for their personal safety and that of their loved ones.

On Tuesday, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti (RIA) reported the preliminary results in an attempt to prove the occupied people’s support for joining Russia. RIA’s narrative showed over 96 percent support across all four regions, with over 98 percent of Donetsk’s electorate supporting annexation.

The outlet noted that the referendums reflected the same political maneuvers used by Russia to validate its seizure of Crimea in 2014, by utilizing disinformation, intimidation, and fraudulent results.

Because of this, the U.K. similarly sanctioned IMA Consulting, branded as Putin’s favorite PR agency.

The sham elections came soon after Putin initiated a conscription of roughly 300,000 citizens to bolster his armed forces in Ukraine, which have suffered repeated setbacks and retreats across multiple fronts.

The mobilization has drawn mass protests across Russia and all new levels of unpopularity for the autocrat. Since the announcement, tens of thousands men of military age have been trying to cross into neighboring countries every day in order to avoid military service.

One Russian man even set himself on fire after he learnt that his name had been called up.

Soon after the tallying of the votes, the U.K. sanctioned the puppet heads of the new regimes, including Sergei Yeliseyev, installed as the head of Kherson, and Yevhen Balytskyi of the illegitimate Zaporozhye government.

Also named were Ivan Kusov, the Minister of Education and Science of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, and Evgeniy Solntsev, Donetsk Oblast’s deputy chairman.

World leaders have widely rejected the announced results.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that “the United States will never, ever, again, recognize this territory as anything than part of Ukraine. We stand with our partners around the world in rejecting whatever fabricated outcomes Russia announces.”

Neil Bush, head of the U.K.’s Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said that “President Putin’s proxies in the temporarily Russian controlled territories of Donetsk Oblast, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts scramble to organise sham referenda – a pitiful charade. Let us be clear: we will never recognise any Russian attempts to purportedly annex part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”

G7 leaders also declared that they “strongly condemn the sham referenda that Russia attempts to use to create a phony pretext for changing the status of Ukrainian sovereign territory.” They further asserted that any proxy governments installed by Russia “have no legal effect or legitimacy.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued his own statement of defiance against the Kremlin, vowing that “We will definitely liberate our entire country - from Kherson to the Luhansk region, from Crimea, I emphasize that, to the Donetsk Oblast region.”

Also listed amongst the 92 sanctions was another set of Russian oligarchs who have funded Putin’s war to eliminate Ukraine’s sovereignty over its own lands.

Elites now on the U.K.’s blacklist include: God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev, known as the ‘Kings of Russian real estate’; Iskander Makhmudov, president of Ural Mining and Metallurgic Company; and Igor Makarov, president and owner of ARETI International Group, a major investor in the oil and gas sector.

The U.K. has now sanctioned over 1,200 individuals, including over 120 oligarchs, who hold an estimated global net worth of more than £130 billion (US$138.6 billion).