European Parliament rules Russia’s presidential election illegitimate, calls Putin a "murderer"

European Parliament rules Russia’s presidential election illegitimate, calls Putin a
The European Parliament passed a resolution calling Russia's recent presidential elections "illegitimate" and held president Putin personally responsible for the "murder" of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who died in jail in February. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 26, 2024

In a sting blow for the Kremlin, the European Parliament ruled that Russia’s presidential election was illegitimate and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin personally for the “murder” of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who died in jail in February.

The European Parliament passed a resolution urging EU member states and the international community to disregard the legitimacy of recent Russian elections and concluded that the presidential elections held on March 15 -17, including the poll in occupied Ukrainian territories, were neither free nor fair. Of the 522 members of parliament, 493 voted for the motion to condemn Russia.

“…the so-called presidential election held by Russia from 15 to 17 March 2024 was conducted without any political competition, in a severely restricted environment of systemic and grave repression and during the Russian Federation’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” the resolution reads. “Russia’s authoritarian regime has used such increasingly fraudulent and farcical so-called elections for decades to provide a semblance of democracy in order to continue to concentrate all power in the hands of Vladimir Putin.”

The resolution also "deplores the fact that the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, chose to break ranks with the EU and congratulate Vladimir Putin on his sham re-election.”

The resolution held Putin personally responsible for Navalny’s death in questionable circumstances on February 16 in the Polar Wolf prison camp on Russia’s Far North coast.

“…Alexei Navalny, the most powerful figure in the democratic opposition and the 2021 laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was murdered in a Siberian penal colony on 16 February 2024, just weeks before the so-called presidential election,” the resolution says.

Navalny had been serving what the European Parliament called “an unfounded, politically motivated prison sentence” and went on to explicitly say, “the full responsibility for his murder lies with the Russian state and with its president Vladimir Putin in particular.”

The resolution also urged EU states to support Russian civil society organisations, and issue humanitarian visas to Russians who face persecution for their opposition to Putin.

While the European Parliament’s resolution carries no legal weight or effects, it is a blow for the Kremlin and undermines Putin’s legitimacy as president.

Russian oligarch turned dissident, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, called the decision a “turning point” in Europe’s relation with Russia.

“While he may hate to admit it, Putin needs foreign approval, particularly from the West, because despite all of his best efforts, Russians still place a lot of stock in Western recognition,” Khodorkovsky said in a post on social media.

The European Parliament has called for sanctions against individuals involved in orchestrating the elections in the four regions annexed by Russia last year and recommended that EU countries severely limit their relations with the Russian government, including negotiations related to prisoner exchanges, the repatriation of deported children to Ukraine, and the release of political prisoners.

One of the theories accounting for Navalny’s death is that the US proposed the opposition leader be included in a prisoner swap deal for the US citizens Evan Gerkovich and Paul Whelan for FSB-linked hit man Vadim Krasikov, who is serving a life sentence for murder in Germany. Navalny was murdered to remove his name from the table in any potential prisoner swap, according to some commentators.

In parallel to the European Parliament's resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also declared Putin and his government illegitimate on April 17. PACE urged the Council of Europe and EU member states to cease all contact with Putin's "criminal regime," echoing the European Parliament’s call for isolation and sanctions.

The European Commission (EC) is currently debating a fourteenth sanctions package that intends to tighten the extreme sanctions regime imposed on Russia that is expected to be adopted in the coming months.

A recent poll in Ukraine found that 85% of Ukrainians view Putin as illegitimate, highlighting the widespread condemnation of the Russian invasion just over two years ago. However, in Russia, while the decision to invade Ukraine is widely condemned, the overwhelming majority of Russians have backed the war now it has started. A recent poll found that patriotism is at an all-time high and 84% of Russians trust Putin, according to the independent pollster, the Levada Center.