Against the background of mounting indications of possible "pseudo-referendums" in Ukrainian territories currently occupied by Russia, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, has urged the Russian authorities to refrain from such plans.
As part of the regional elections scheduled for 11 September in the Russian Federation, according to the analysis of international NGOs, so-called “referendums” could be organised in Ukrainian areas currently occupied by Moscow, notably Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as well as in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
“This would mean that President Putin would continue his imperialist policy, which brought a war to Europe that had never been seen after 1945 on this scale. I therefore urge the Russian authorities to refrain from such plans,” said Congress President Leendert Verbeek.
The Congress has always spoken out loud and clear in favour of preserving the territorial integrity of Council of Europe member countries, according to the Congress President. “Russia is no longer a member of the Council of Europe. But Ukraine is - and we stand united behind this country and its people and we will do whatever it takes to continue supporting Ukraine and helping its local and regional authorities," Mr Verbeek made clear.
A recommendation on holding referendums at the local level, adopted by the Congress in 2021, contains clear guidance on how referenda should be organised at the local and regional level - and what should be avoided. "If Russia uses the referendum, a valuable democratic instrument in itself, to further intensify its aggressive policy vis-à-vis the Council of Europe member State Ukraine, this is an abuse of this instrument and a further attempt to destroy democracy and the rule of law. Therefore, should Russia stick to the plans for such fictitious referendums in Ukrainian territories, the results will be null and void for us,” concluded Congress President Leendert Verbeek.