Dumb Russia #3
Useful Idiots and Sham Referendums
Welcome to the third edition of Dumb Russia, which this week is packed full of Useful Idiots and Kremlin illegality, two things that slotted together perfectly this week as Russia took concrete steps towards annexing great swathes of Ukraine’s territory as prizes for Putin’s imperialistic ambitions and his increasingly desperate attempts to not look like he’s made one of the biggest geo-political blunders in the history of humanity.
Russia’s western Useful Idiots are an undeniably talented bunch – the mental gymnastics required to continue staking your entire career on Putin being the good guy as he threatens the world with nuclear weapons and wages genocidal war against his neighbour would be enough to reduce any regular person with a shred of dignity to a blubbering wreck.
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Grift, apparently, is a powerful motivator. Anyway, let’s begin and take a look at Russia’s sham referendums.
What do we know for certain?
They were a sham
The usual Useful Idiots utterly surpassed themselves
Let us explain.
The so-called ‘referendums’ in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia were so illegal they even violated Russian law which stipulates, among other things, that a referendum should be held no earlier than 60 days and no later than 100 days after the date of its official announcement.
They were illegal under international law as outlined by Rosemary A DiCarlo of the United Nations.
They were obviously illegal under Ukrainian law which applies to the territories in which they occurred no matter what the Kremlin tries to suggest.
There aren’t even enough people still in areas such as Zaporizhzhia to obtain the 51% voter turnout needed to legitimise a referendum even if we discounted all the above.
There were so many procedural irregularities that it’s impossible to cover them all here, but here’s a flavour:
Door-to-door voting was conducted by officials accompanied by armed soldiers.
Blank voter cards were counted as “Yes” votes.
Ukrainians were forced to vote under the gaze of Russian-installed election officials.
For a detailed and very personal account of the voting process, this is the first tweet in a chilling thread by Maxim Eristavi.
In a surprise to absolutely no one, the results were overwhelmingly in favour of the occupied territories joining Russia.
How has Russia tried to spin it as legitimate?
Ukrainian polling expert Nazar Boyko of the monitoring-analytics group CIFRA, told Dumb Russia: “There should be a legal framework and the process should be competitive, there should be at last two sides campaigning for and against. There should be international observers, not freaks and fake observers.
“There should be access to domestic observers. There are at least ten steps that need to be met and fulfilled in order for the election to be found credible.”
Obviously the whole “illegal” and “not credible” thing posed a little bit of conundrum for Russia. Despite clearly demonstrating a total disregard for all things free and democratic for years now, they clearly thought they needed to make some attempt to give the referendums a veneer of legitimacy.
Enter the Useful Idiots…
On Monday Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, posted a list of “international observers” shipped in by Russia in an attempt to lend an air of credibility to proceedings.
Among them are a number of western self-described journalists who have made names for themselves by using the freedom of movement, expression and speech afforded to them by their relatively comfortable lives in the West, to routinely deny that oppressed peoples in other parts of the world could possibly aspire to those same freedoms.
One of them was Vanessa Beeley who has spent the last few years helping Syria’s Assad regime maintain its 51-year dictatorial stranglehold on the country’s people by, among other things, legitimising the murder of rescue workers in war zones.
Earlier this week she arrived in Russia which could mean only one thing – an embattled authoritarian leader needed help suppressing the legitimate democratic desires of population under the control of his genocidal military.
Beeley performed her Useful Idiot role superbly, saying at a press conference she was invited to speak at: “It is their decision to liberate themselves from an imposed Nazi regime that was imposed upon them in 2014 and that has been committing crimes against them ever since and which is controlled by the West.
“The West has to say in this referendum other than to object to it because finally the people are liberating themselves and rejoining Russia.
“I have seen absolutely no violations, I have seen complete professionalism from the electoral committees, I've seen a high level of security, a huge amount of solidarity, compassion for people who are maybe struggling to get to the polling station.”
Her friend, the Canadian conspiracy theorist Eva Bartlett did even better, obliviously documenting some of the voting irregularities noted above – voters being filmed casting their votes as officials watch on and going door-to-door to ensure people voted – all the while claiming the vote was legitimate.
Our friends at Ukrainians Respond to Dumb Takes asked Ukrainian journalist Iryna Matviyishyn, what she thought about Russia’s little election helpers.
“I just have one thing to say to such people – they should just go live in Russia if they think it's a better political system or social system to live in.
“Every civilised human realises and knows that they're conducted against international and humanitarian law, against the Geneva Conventions, against the Ukrainian constitution. There are no legal grounds to believe what these pro-Kremlin pundits are saying.
“What amused me is that she said this is a 'reunification, the decision of the people to reunify with Russia'. Which is nonsense, I don't know what this person is referring to or whether she knows history at all because these territories have never been Russian except for the times they were occupied and oppressed as they are now. So it's hard to say what the logical arguments are for this."
In fairness to Eva Bartlett, she has actually moved to Russia and the fact she feels more at home trying to be a journalist in a country which has stamped out independent media and made criticism of its genocidal imperialist conquest of Ukraine illegal, tells you everything you need to know about her journalistic integrity.
Such was ludicrousness of their position that even Craig Murray who made a name for himself defending the Skripal poisoners pitched in to tell them off.
The bigger picture
While pimping yourself out as a tool of Russian imperialism might do wonders for your YouTube views and Patreon accounts, the Useful Idiots are complicit in what might be one of the most dangerous phases of the war so far.
Up until recently the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons in its invasion of Ukraine has been remote and in May, Kremlin officials said outright they would not use them, emphasising that their country’s rules only allow for their use when state's existence is threatened.
But two things have happened since then. Firstly, Russia is currently being trounced in the war and has had to launch an absolutely shambolic mobilisation drive in order to get enough cannon fodder to fend off the far superior Ukrainian army.
Secondly, Putin will formally annex the territories in which referendums were held this week when he makes a speech on Friday.
Whether or not they are legal in the eyes of the world, Russia could now deem any Ukrainian attempt to take back these territories as an attack on Russia itself and therefore use nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, told CNBC on Wednesday: “As for the risk of Russia using these votes and subsequent annexation of those territories as a pretext for nuclear strikes — we are conscious of this risk, we understand that it is real.
“Even if Russia’s leader is himself crazy enough to contemplate or even consider conducting a nuclear strike on Ukrainian territory, hopefully not all those people who surround him are that crazy. But again, this is not something we can count on so we, as Ukraine, have to be prepared for the worse and the international community has to be prepared not to budge, not to cave to this nuclear blackmail.”
The view from inside Russia
Inside Russia, news of the referendums has been met with a muted response with people still more concerned with mobilisations.
‘Sofia’ told Dumb Russia: “In Russia there is no rush, no enthusiasm whatsoever for joining the warring regions of Ukraine. The main agenda is mobilisation. My 17-year-old son, a freshman student, suddenly began to understand politics, just like all his friends - classmates. They are afraid of mobilisation. The queues at the borders are incredible, this has never happened before in the history of Russia. Every man called to the front is a tragedy in the family, the loss of a husband, father, brother, breadwinner. Most of my acquaintances, men of military age, have already left Russia. Against the backdrop of these events, there is no rejoicing of the “Crimean Spring”. There is a dull malice and hatred, including towards the leadership of the republics occupied by Russia. The referendums are not on the news agenda. A new wave of patriotism against the backdrop of the seizure of foreign territories did not rise.”
As regularly as is possible, Dumb Russia will feature a Ukrainian organisation or individual engaged in the fight against Russian disinformation and propaganda and for this edition we have the excellent Stop Fake.
We’ll hand you over to Stop Fake journalist Alex Zamkovoi, who told Dumb Russia: “StopFake was established in 2014 to fight Russian propaganda and disinformation. StopFake’s work on refuting Kremlin's fakes is crucial not only in Ukraine but also in the wider world.
“Today, the team of journalists, editors, IT specialists and translators fact-checks, de-bunks, edits, translates, researches, and disseminates information through different platforms in 13 languages.”
Some extra reading if you’re in the mood…
Russian forces have staged illegal ‘referendums’ in Ukraine. What comes next? Rob Picheta for CNN.
Ignore Putin’s fake referendums and keep helping Ukraine. Leader for The Economist.
Fake referendums in occupied Ukraine set the stage for annexation — and immense danger for Ukraine. Holly Ellyatt for CNBC.
Analysis: Truth or bluff? Why Putin's nuclear warnings have the West worried. Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Osborn for Reuters.
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