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Foreign observation of the illegitimate presidential election in Crimea in March 2018

(April 3, 2018)



The greater part of the international community does not recognise the “Russian status” of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014. Therefore, reputable monitoring organisations did not send any missions to observe the Russian presidential election in Crimea held on the 18th of March 2018.

Aiming to give domestic and international legitimacy to the election in Crimea, the Russian authorities invited, via a number of organisations, 43 foreign observers who obtained accreditation from the CEC and illegally travelled to Crimea to monitor the electoral process there. The CEC has not published a full list of the foreign observers in Crimea yet, but, out of 43 foreign observers, we have identified 35 of them. The analysis of the list of the identified observers shows that, while the majority of them have no political affiliation, 14 of them represent nearly all ideological convictions ranging from the far left through the centre-left and centre-right to the far right. At the same time, at least 12 of them have previously been engaged in pro-Kremlin activities aimed at promoting Moscow’s foreign policy interests that include, but are not limited to, the attempts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The pro-Kremlin activities of particular foreign monitors involved participation in the observation of illegitimate electoral processes in Crimea and DNR, illegal visits to these Ukrainian territories, pro-Kremlin commentaries for the Russian state-controlled media, and promotion of the Kremlin’s foreign policy interests in their respective societies.

As the main objective of inviting foreign observers was giving legitimacy to otherwise illegitimate electoral process, Russian media actively spread propagandistic narratives of the invited foreign observers in the Russian and international media space.

In general, the foreign observation mission in Crimea fell short of the expectations of the Russian authorities, as they promised to bring more acting parliamentarians and politicians to Crimea to observe the presidential election. In March 2014, more than 30 foreign parliamentarians and politicians – predominantly representing European far-right parties and organisations – observed the Crimean “referendum”, but in 2018 the Russian authorities largely failed to mobilise them for the “Crimean cause”.

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