A top UN official and western ambassadors on Friday denounced what they called illegal elections that Moscow is holding in occupied regions of Ukraine, as Russian air strikes overnight killed dozens across the country.
“We are concerned over reports of the Russian Federation holding so-called elections in areas of Ukraine currently under Russian military control,” Miroslav Jenca, UN assistant secretary general for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, told Security Council members.
“These so-called elections in the occupied areas of Ukraine have no legal grounds.”
Mr Jenca condemned “any actions” that could further escalate the situation or cause it to deteriorate.
Russian authorities are holding local elections this weekend in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as well as Crimea, coinciding with simultaneous local elections held in Russia.
Voters are expected to elect their regional legislatures, which will subsequently designate regional governors.
Albania’s UN ambassador Felix Hoxha told the council that Moscow “hopes the sham elections will demonstrate its control over these occupied territories, but they are nothing more than a propaganda stunt”.
Deputy US ambassador Robert Wood accused Russia of “rushing” to fabricate electoral victories to use as a smokescreen to obscure its military setbacks in Ukraine.
He urged all UN member states to refrain from actions that serve to lend credibility to Russia's sham elections on Ukrainian territory.
“We must all call out Russia's egregious violations of international law for what they are: a stain on our collective history as a body founded on maintaining world peace and an assault on our rules-based international order,” said Mr Wood.
Britain’s top UN envoy Barbara Woodward rejected “ballots at gunpoint” being imposed in regions under Moscow's control.
“Russia claims it is protecting the right to self-determination. But … you can't hold elections in someone else's country,” she said.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya responded by saying they were pleasantly surprised by the Security Council’s “desire to commemorate” the anniversary of the referendums on the accession of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to Russia.
“Frankly, we ourselves had been thinking that it might be worth telling the council about life in these new constituent subjects of our country,” noted Mr Nebenzya.
Russia currently controls about 18 per cent of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that it took control of following the invasion last year.
In October 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that reaffirmed the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.