21 September 2022
Statement by Sergei Davidis and Oleg Orlov, co-chairs of Human Rights Defence Centre Memorial
On 20 September 2022, the puppet ‘councils’ and occupation ‘administrations’ in Russian-controlled territories of Ukraine announced they would hold ‘referendums’ on 23-27 September on joining the Russian Federation. Some top Russian officials immediately announced their readiness to accept these territories as part of our country.
We are certain these ‘referendums’ are in blatant violation of the Russian Constitution and Ukrainian law and at the same time violate our country’s international legal obligations. They have nothing to do with discovering the will of Ukrainian citizens. Attempts to incorporate the ‘people’s republics’ into Russia are in breach of the prohibition in international law on the annexation of territories by means of the use, or threat, of force. Based on the accepted definition of aggression, other states are simply bound not to recognize these ‘referendums.’ Their results will not and cannot have any legal force.
These ‘referendums’ will be just as invalid as the similar ‘referendums’ of 2014. Representatives of Memorial Human Rights Centre monitored the ‘referendum’ held in Donetsk and in their report (https://memohrc.org/ru/reports/nesostoyatelnyy-referendum) showed that the very manner in which the ‘referendum’ was conducted ruled out any possibility of reliably determining its results.
The current shameful spectacle is yet another attempt to blackmail the international community, another step towards the escalation of the tragedy brought by the Russian state to Ukrainian soil back in 2014 and multiplied many times over since 24 February this year.
In parallel, on 20 September the State Duma passed laws that set out the terms of mobilization and martial law and that will force Russian citizens to participate in the military action. On the morning of 21 September, the president announced the start of mobilization.
Russia must immediately cease its aggression against Ukraine and withdraw from the areas it has seized that are internationally recognised as Ukrainian territory.
Co-chairs of the board of Human Rights Defence Centre Memorial
Translated by Rights in Russia