The presidential election in Russia through the prism of Ukraine

By Dmitri Kovalevich *

The March 15 to 17 presidential election in Russia dominated the Ukrainian information and political space throughout that month. Events at the military front, controversy over forced conscription, and economic problems all took a back seat.

Investigators of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) are now preparing prosecutions they hope to wage one day against those people in the new Russian territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye who appeared in social media or in traditional media and spoke favorably of Russia or the election.

Judging by the results, it is in the new territories that support for the Russian president was the highest of all across Russia. For all of Russia, there was a record turnout of 77.4 percent, according to the country’s electoral commission. (The previous record was 74.7 percent set in 1991). Vladimir Putin received 87.3 percent of the vote; the second-place finisher was the Communist Party’s Nikolai Kharitonov with 4.3 percent. Putin said he was pleasantly surprised by the high results he and his party scored.

The Donetsk Republic of the Russian Federation scored the highest results, with a turnout of 88% and a vote for Putin 95%. Donetsk was the region hit hardest by Ukraine’s low-intensity war launched in 2014 and has seen by far the hardest fighting since 2022 when Russia responded to the threats and never-ending provocations by the Ukraine regime and its NATO backers.

The Ukrainian Telegram channel ‘Legitimny’ wrote on March 18 that support for the incumbent president was partly the result of hostile Western policies towards the Russian people as a whole. “Vladimir Putin gained a maximum of votes due to the hostile actions of Western countries, attempting to humiliate the Russian people”.

The outlet went on to note the differing political conditions between Russia and Ukraine. “Putin and his government held elections under difficult conditions, while in Ukraine, the ‘democratic’ president Volodymyr Zelensky governs through martial law and is afraid to hold elections for fear of losing. Officially, Ukraine does not even consider itself to be at war”, it writes.

An official declaration by Ukraine of a state of war could inhibit further loans and grants from international institutions such as the IMF whose statutes caution or outright prohibit loans to countries at war. The Ukraine government says it is merely responding to aggression. In 2023, the IMF made an exception of Ukraine to its rule forbidding loans to countries at war, calling the situation there a “situation of exceptionally high uncertainty”.

Unsuccessful military incursions by Ukraine into Russian territories

The governing regime in Kiev spent considerable resources on attempts to disrupt the election in the Russian Federation. Days prior to the vote, Ukraine’s armed forces staged a large incursion into the Russian border regions of Belgorod and Kursk. (The two cities are approximately 100 km apart, and Belgorod is only some 60 km from Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.)

As usual, Western media announced the incursion but then neglected to report its result. The Russian military shook its head at the effort, saying it ended in the complete destruction of the Ukrainian forces involved, including the loss of much armoured equipment and ammunition, which is already in dire, short supply in Ukraine.

No less than the Washington Post acknowledged in a March 15 report from Belgorod that shelling attacks and incursions by Ukraine have only increased local support for the Russian government and president. The Post writes, “For many residents, such attacks only deepen their support for Putin.”

Putin reported in a teleconference with members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation that was broadcast on the Russian presidency’s website that the Belgorod/Kursk incursion involved more than 2,500 soldiers 35 tanks, and about 40 armored combat vehicles. He said the enemy had no success.

One of the purposes of this effort, Putin said, was “to “divert the attention of the people of Ukraine from the real state of affairs along the line of contact, and divert the attention of the people in countries from which the Kyiv regime continues to beg for money and all sorts of other handouts.”

Russian military expert Boris Rozhin wrote on Telegram on March 14 about the incursions, saying, “When they say that elections in Russia are not interesting and have predictable results, just remember that several hundred people died in the border region of Belgorod region this month in an attempt to disrupt them.”

There was, indeed, much that was absurd in the desperate attempts to disrupt the Russian election. The West still considers Russia an ‘authoritarian state’ and does not recognize its elections as being democratic. Russians, however, do not care about such opinions, and so attempts to disrupt an election in Russia considered in advance by the West and by the Kyiv regime to be illegitimate appear utterly pointless. The attempts at disruption only show that the West and Ukraine are well aware of the mood in Russian society in support of the government and are very dissatisfied with that.

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The Russian TV channel Rossiya 1 reported at the time of the incursions by Ukraine that Russian intelligence knew several weeks in advance of the plans of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) to attack the Belgorod region and it had an idea of exactly where the enemy was going to attack. As part of the preparations, the Russian Armed Forces grouping in the Belgorod region was reinforced.

In response to each successive failure of an operation by the AFU, purges occur among officers and commanders due to the beliefs of the regime of President Zelensky and its Western military instructors that there are many in the AFU whose sympathies lie with Russia.

Ukrainian political scientist Konstantin Bondarenko wrote on Telegram on March 18 that the purpose of military incursions into Russia has “not so much been to disrupt elections in Russia, as reported by some ‘analysts’, but, rather, to prevent any peace negotiations. Well, it seems that the incursions have achieved their goal.”

More cannon fodder for U.S. senators

The average Ukrainian is not really interested in the elections in the Russian Federation. He or she is naturally more concerned about personal survival, especially when thousands of Ukrainian men are still being forcibly conscripted every week to the front lines. (Exact conscription numbers are treated by the Ukraine government as classified information.) According to the Ukrainian news publication, citing a deputy from Zelensky’s party, conscription is being carried out and intensified in order to show to the U.S. government the alleged military effectiveness of the Ukrainian leadership. “Conscription should intensify in Ukraine,” the deputy says. “People should go to the front. That’s because if they were to perceive in Washington that Ukrainians do not want to fight, no one there will continue to press for continued U.S. arms transfers, not even the Democrats.”

This claim in Strana was confirmed by the visit to Kiev of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on March 18. He called upon young people in Ukraine to join the AFU. “I would hope that those eligible to serve in the Ukrainian military would join. I can’t believe it [the age for obligatory military service] is at 27,” he said. “You’re in a fight for your life, so you should be serving, and not at age 25 or 27. We [sic] need more people in the line.”

The fact that a U.S. senator calmly calls upon yet more Ukrainian people to serve as cannon fodder in a war against Russia is a very telling example of where Ukraine ‘independence’ truly stands in today’s world.

Emotional display in the Ukraine Rada of non-recognition of Russian elections

Ukrainian Rada (legislature) deputy Yevhen Shevchenko wrote on Telegram about the topic of the Russian presidential election, saying the subject was central to the Rada session of March 14. Deputies of Zelensky’s party and of the party of former President Petro Poroshenko competed in shouting anti-Russian rhetoric the loudest, literally going hysterical, Shevchenko wrote. “Do you know how the legislative session took place today? Traditionally, it began with the anthem and a minute of silence. Included in the schedule was a resolution for non-recognition of the election of the Russian president in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Speeches from groups and factions took place for three minutes each. The loudest speakers were Petro Poroshenko and Maxim Buzhansky [of Zelensky’s ‘Servant of the People’ party]. The latter managed to exceed the decibels coming from Petro Poroshenko. My eardrums almost burst from their screeching.”

According to Shevchenko, almost half of the deputies were not in attendance. Lately, Ukrainian deputies have been boycotting Rada sessions, but not for political reasons. They have been demanding permission to travel abroad, where they can vacation and seek more sponsors. Zelensky has forbidden deputies to travel abroad without his approval, as he fears their contacts with Western sponsors. Deputies are absent from Rada sessions for different reasons; one reason is that poor attendance could result in expulsion and the deputy could no longer be banned from travel. All Ukrainian men under the age of 65 are banned from travel abroad, but exceptions are granted for state business or personal business (health care, for example, or care of elders).

Why so much emotion and passion about elections in Russia? The Russian voter is unlikely to listen to the hysterical outbursts of Ukrainian deputies. Neither will the non-recognition of elections by the Verkhovna Rada affect the election results. The main audience is the Ukrainian public, who the government is constantly working to keep it in a state of nervous tension. There are also Western creditors to please. They constantly evaluate the actions of the Ukrainian authorities according to the effectiveness of anti-Russian actions, not according to whatever benefits to Ukrainian society that their actions may bring.

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Zelensky, as an actor, was the one to initially adopt the tactic of “emotional diplomacy” whereby hysteria, screaming, tears and other theatrics replace rational arguments and signed documents.

The truth of the matter is that Ukraine is only a battering ram, whose purpose is to contribute to the weakening and destruction of the Russian Federation, even at the cost of Ukraine’s existence. Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics candidly wrote on the day of the Russian election in support of the introduction of French troops into Ukraine. His words included the phrase ‘Russia delenda est!’ (‘Russia must be destroyed!’), borrowing from the original phrase by Roman ruler Cato about Rome’s desire to destroy the competing city of Carthage.

It should be noted that in modern Nazi mythology, the ancient wars of Rome against Carthage, as well as the wars of Athens against Persia and the campaigns of Alexander the Great, are typically interpreted as wars by ‘civilized’ Europe against ‘barbaric’ Asia.

Legitimizing Dictatorship in Ukraine

Deputies of Zelensky’s party do not hide their aspirations for dictatorship. Dictatorship is the tool that “can help” Ukraine to defeat Russia, said Serhiy Demchenko, a deputy the ‘Servant of the People’, on March 18. At the same time, he admitted, “for the country, for the people, dictatorship is definitely a disadvantage, always.”

Another deputy from Zelensky’s party, Oleg Dunda, told Ukrainian television that democracy, human rights and freedoms can be talked about only after the war is over, advising to forget about these concepts for now. “During the war, we have only one task – survival. Everything we do must be aimed precisely at this.”

In Ukraine, elections for the presidency and the Rada were supposed to be held this past month, according to the five-year term limits set out in the Ukraine constitution. But Volodymyr Zelensky instead extended martial law and canceled the holding of elections. The Ukrainian constitution does not clearly answer whether elections can be held during martial law. There is a legal conflict at play here, which may be resolved by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU).

As the Ukrainian mass media reported back in February, the presidential office first thought of appealing to the Constitutional Court for an election delay. But the office changed its mind because of the danger the Court may give an unfavorable ruling, declaring Zelensky’s electoral mandate to be expired and his term as president ended. The majority of the members of the Constitutional Court were appointed under former president Petro Poroshenko and remain his protégés; as well, the former president happens to dream of a return to power.

Last year, under pressure from legal and constitutional experts in the countries supporting Ukraine, was against Russia, Zelensky announced changes to the selection process for judges on the Court, making it more open and competitive.

According to former Rada deputy Igor Mosiychuk, Zelensky wants only people loyal to him to be appointed to the Constitutional Court, with a view to extending his expired electoral mandate. Mosiychuk wrote that Zelensky is seeking to be “appointed emperor for eternity by a decision of the Constitutional Court”.

What Constitutional Court selections reveal 

To apply for a posting to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, a citizen of Ukraine must be over 40 years of age and must have worked for at least 15 years in some capacity in the judiciary. Candidates are predominantly judges of lower courts. Applicants must pass an exam on the knowledge of law and the Constitution, and they must report on their income. Since 2023, the competitive selection process is public. Thanks to this, the citizens of Ukraine have been viewing broadcasts of evaluations of the judicial system in general and its serving judges in particular.

There are 18 judges who serve on the Court; currently, there are five vacancies.

One unfortunate judge of the Economic Court of Zakarpattia region and candidate for the Constitutional Court, Lubomyr Andriychuk, could not correctly answer the date when the Constitution of Ukraine was adopted during the live broadcast of his interview process. He first tried to avoid answering, then answered ‘1991’. The correct answer was 1996. Since 2019, he has been teaching law at Uzhgorod National University.

At the same interview, Andriychuk was asked about his ownership of two land plots in the elite resort of Bukovel. He had bought the plots for a pittance, allegedly for the purpose of farming. But he ended up selling the plots for millions of hryvnia for the construction of cottages. When asked during his application interview how the intended purpose of the land was changed from farming, he could not answer, saying that all the relevant documents are now in the possession of the buyer.

It turns out that Ukrainian judges benefit from unthinkable prices for real estate. One judge candidate for the CCU indicated that he lives in an apartment of 43 square meters (420 square feet) which he purchased for eight hryvnia (20 U.S. cents). Another judge candidate, Alexander Radutny, indicated in his declaration that he owns a house, two apartments, and two vehicle garages, and for each one he paid one hryvnia (three U.S. cents). “These errors have now been corrected,” he told inquirers, adding that he is very bad at converting currencies.

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Maksym Muzyka, a judge of the Economic Court of Khmelnytskyi region, did not answer inquirers’ questions because he had “had not prepared”. When asked why he did not declare his ownership of a land plot he purchased in 2012-2013, he explained that until 2015, such a declaration was “only a formality”.

Another candidate for a Court position could not specify the value of the apartment she bought because her mother forbade her to talk about it. The mother is a pensioner from the provincial town of Stryi and she somehow managed to buy an elite apartment in Kiev.

The judge of the Economic Court of Mykolaiv region, Oleksandr Tkachenko, admitted at his inquiry that he had approved the work of Parma LLC in building two garages without proper judicial authorization and received two garages in exchange. He sees nothing wrong with that.

It should be noted that judicial positions in Ukraine since the late 1980s have been considered hereditary or for sale. They do not necessarily require that the persons holding them have any specialized legal training and knowledge. All legal formulations are prepared by assistants and secretaries, who themselves may have been excellent students at law faculties but may never be able to acquire a judicial position for themselves.

On May 29, the chairman of the CCU Serhiy Golovatiy will turn 70 years old and will be due to step down from the post due to his age. Last week, the Zerkalo Nedeli weekly reported that the Constitutional Court will be headed by the current speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk. Even members of the ‘Servant of The People’ electoral machine recognize his lack of professional training and knowledge in this area.

“Although he [Stefanchuk] is not a specialist in constitutional law but a specialist in civil law, his knowledge, thoughts and creative ideas regarding constitutional and legal matters are at a very high level,” said Fedor Venislavskyy, the former presidential representative to the CCU. Simply put, even though he is not a specialist, Stefanchuk has “creative” ideas about understanding the constitution (including, no doubt, how to interpret it frivolously).

The very procedure of selecting members of the Constitutional Court demonstrates the corruption and unprofessionalism that predominate in Ukrainian courts. Ordinary Ukrainians, of course, may have serious questions as to how members of the courts without adequate training have managed to work for years in the Ukrainian judicial system. Many of them have been issuing verdicts deciding the fates of people and businesses. Those CCU member judges who are now expected to legitimize Zelensky’s usurpation of power are actually discrediting the judicial system through the public contest to win seats on it.

However, for the Western powers, in spite of these frank confessions and the abolition of elections in Ukraine in 2024, Russia, not Ukraine, remains the ‘dictatorship’ that must be fought.

And even though Ukraine has actually turned into a real prison for its people, from which men conscripted by the military are daily trying to escape through minefields or taking other dire risks to their lives, the Western media still considers Ukraine a ‘model of democracy’… as long as it sends its citizens to their deaths in the interests of the likes of Senator Lindsey Graham.

Much of this harkens back to the years of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe when Nazi and fascist dictatorships throughout the continent were supported by the elites as weapons to deter a Russian ‘threat’ and the threatening specter of communism.

* Dmitri Kovalevich is the special correspondent in Ukraine for Al Mayadeen English. This report delves into the Russian Presidential Election and Ukriane’s upcoming new mobilization law.

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