2 November 2014

Helping international "observers" see armed men at "polling stations" in the Donbass

Graham Phillips, a controversial British reporter for the Kremlin's disinformation service Russia Today, has interviewed Austrian right-wing politician Ewald Stadler, who is one of the "observers" at "elections" in the Donbass.

According to Stadler, "there is no pressure to the people. Soldiers and people with guns are outside, not inside. Everybody can vote here free".

OK, so Stadler does not see a man in military fatigues standing behind him. So let's help Stadler see something else, shall we?

Photo by Novaya Gazeta

Photo by Oleksiy Matsuka
Photo by RIA Novosti
Photo by Komsomolskaya Pravda
Photo by Associated Press
Photo by EPA

Right, according to Stadler, there are no armed men "inside" polling stations. This may actually be true: there are no polling stations in the Donbass because there are no elections there.

And here is a good example of what armed men are doing in order to provide safety of the "voters" and ensure the fairness of the "elections":


  1. You may dislike, they may be out of standard (since the situation is out of standard) but they are elections and have impression that nobody is pushing nobody to vote under a gun. Even with the pictures you provided. This is just security, nothing more. You are biased.

    1. Terrorists providing "security" to their hostages, yeah right.

  2. With respect, you do not need to have people forced at gunpoint for the elections to be a sham - or at the very least so constrained that the populace's choice will not affect key policies (think Iran). Even off the top of my head I can note quite a few problems which suggest these elections were more theatre than democracy.

    - Presence of armed soldiers within the premises of the polling stations (particularly when they are currently led by one of the candidates) is a major no-no, and doubly so because the breakaway regions used transparent ballot boxes, which allows your vote to be seen (that is a problem even absent said armed men, as your ballot is not truly secret).

    - Having only two candidate lists which apparently have identical views on key issues (the names of the lists - Donetsk Republic - and Free Donbass - see https://twitter.com/RolandOliphant/status/528853574261170176/photo/1 ) does not really denote a vibrant democracy.

    - While we're on the subject, there seems to have been no effort to create credible voter rolls, or a system which would allow locals to freely form parties, submit lists for elections, and offer different political programmes. If I remember pre-violence polls correctly, between 20-30% of the population in Lugansk and Donetsk supported independence, another 40% wanted more autonomy within Ukraine, and the rest were fine and/or didn't care. Even allowing for a hardening of attitudes during the conflict you'd expect more variable political fare on offer in credible elections.

    - If you truly wish to be seen as a democracy, it's usually a good idea to make an honest effort to attract international monitors in order to prove that you are committed in democracy, even if you are unrecognised. Creating a new monitoring outfit literally a day before elections and/or using well-known biased (to put it mildly) observers who also happen to be mostly far right extremists doesn't really suggest a credible commitment.

    - Oh, and newly-formed democratic states tend to try to draft a constitution and submit it to the people for confirmation at a referendum as quickly as possible, so they can get on with the job of forming transparent state institutions. I follow the news closely, and I never saw any mention of such efforts even in pro-Russian media.

    - If you want to be seen as a democrat it's probably not a good idea to announce you will sentence looters to death in a procedure which is pretty much a copy-paste of the old NKVD troika system.

    And that's just off the top of my head. I'm sure prof. Shekovtsov will be able to provide many more examples.


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