15:14 Sep. 4, 2016
Ukrainian political expert Bohdan Yaremenko says Moscow falls into a trap by allowing Crimean residents take part in elections
While Russia is preparing for the upcoming Parliamentary elections and politicians are campaigning throughout the country, Ukraine begins to question the legitimacy of the voting process and, as a result of the future Duma [Russian Parliament] itself.
The reason for that is the fact that Moscow considers Crimea its territory, and, of course, is preparing to hold the elections on the peninsula too. This decision will be problematic for both legal systems - Ukrainian as well as Russian.
After Crimea was annexed, the Kremlin resorted to a very questionable legal approach regarding the citizenship of more than 2 mln people, Ukrainian political expert Bohdan Yaremenko says.
Local residents, who wanted to ‘stay' Ukrainians, were told to show up in person at four special centers, established on the peninsula, to confirm their intentions.
‘Of course, four centers for such a large territory as the Crimean Peninsula were 'no where near enough' with over and above thirty-forty thousand people using this opportunity to confirm their Ukrainian citizenship. The rest of the population of Crimea Russia declared to be Russian citizens. They applied some medieval and archaic belief, if you are invading a territory, the inhabitants belong to you', Yaremenko said.
Even though in September 2014 Moscow announced that 98% of all Crimean residents had received Russian passports, Yaremenko claims, the vast majority are still Ukrainian citizens.
In order to withdraw from Ukrainian citizenship, one must directly apply to an official Ukrainian institution such as a representative center or a consulate. According to Yaremenko, only a couple hundred people did that, the rest decided to keep both passports (to apply for an international visa, for example, the West doesn't recognize applications from Crimean residents with Russian documents).
‘According to Russian law, all those holders of a second citizenship, or another citizenship, except Russian, they are not allowed to take part in the elections. And as we see right now, the vast majority of the people in Crimea, electing the members of the Parliament, participating in the electoral bodies and being registered as candidates for the State Duma, they are the holders of Ukrainian citizenship', Yaremenko stated, adding that 88 out of 109 deputies, officially registered in Crimea, are 'most likely' Ukrainian citizens.
The expert added that this legal mess creates hiatus, whereby Ukraine can question the legitimacy of the next Duma in accordance with Russian and international law. If Kyiv plays its cards right, it could receive a major advantage in the future.
In addition to declaring the elections in occupied Crimea illegal, refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Russian Parliament and imposing sanctions against all ‘illegal' participants of the voting process, Ukraine should call on its Western partners to take similar measures.
‘It's a mechanism to uphold the pressure on the Russian Federation, especially now, when there is a perspective that the sanctions against Russia could be, well, changed next year. And of course, during the negotiations over the issues of sanctions, Ukraine will have additional opportunities to suggest new ideas for the sanctions over Crimea annexation, to make them even harsher for Russian citizens including the Russian Federation', Yaremenko emphasized.
It seems the West will not have any reason not to support Ukraine's claims since the elections in Crimea contradict Russian law itself.
It doesn't help that international observers have refused to monitor the voting process on the peninsula.
Considering all that, the expert says the Russian Parliamentary election is a perfect trap that Ukraine should and will effectively use in its own interests.
"Of course, Ukrainians will not cry over the previous Russian Parliament, but at least it was legitimate," Yaremenko sarcastically said.
Bohdan Yaremenko is a former Ukrainian diplomat, now the chief of 'Maidan of Foreign Affairs' NGO. Click here to learn more about his analysis on world affairs.