Russia should address the violations and shortcomings reported by the election observation mission (EOM) from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), according to the European Union.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy/European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, issued the following statement: “Presidential elections took place in the Russian Federation on 18 March, with Vladimir Putin voted into a fourth term as President. According to the preliminary findings of the internationally-recognised OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM), the elections were conducted in an overly controlled legal and political environment, marked by continued pressure on critical voices.”

“The OSCE/ODIHR EOM recorded restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration, which limited the space for political engagement, resulting in a lack of genuine competition. As also noted by the observers, extensive and uncritical coverage of the incumbent by the media resulted in an uneven playing field, efforts to increase the turnout predominated over the campaign of the contestants, and a number of activists who questioned the legitimacy of the elections were detained.

Overall, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM recognised that elections were administered efficiently and openly by the Central Electoral Commission and, on the day, conducted in an orderly manner despite shortcomings related to vote secrecy and transparency of counting, added the spokesperson.

“The European Union does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation and therefore does not recognise the holding of elections in the Crimean Peninsula,” explained the spokesperson. “The OSCE/ODIHR observers did not conduct any activities in these illegally-annexed territories, participation of EU Member States’ diplomats in observation activities within the framework of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM was also limited to the recognised territory of the Russian Federation. The EU remains unwavering in its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”