Russian-occupied Ukraine: 'referenda' are blatant breach of international law

Published By Amnesty International UK [English], Fri, Sep 23, 2022 10:46 AM

Authorities in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia making home visits to collect ‘ballots’ from residents

Any subsequent annexation would have no validity in law

‘These so-called “referenda” are a ruse for Russia to illegally annex occupied Ukrainian territory’ - Denis Krivosheev

Reacting to news that “voting” has begun in the Russian-occupied areas of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine on whether to join the Russian Federation, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director, said:

“These so-called ‘referenda’ are a ruse for Russia to illegally annex occupied Ukrainian territory, which would be another escalation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and further evidence of the Kremlin’s profound disregard for international law and the rights of people in the territories under its occupation.  “These so-called ‘referenda’ and any annexation by Russia that follows have no validity under international law, and, whatever Russia claims as a result, such actions will not change the legal status under international law of the territories Russia occupies.  “Russia must respect its obligations as the occupying power under international humanitarian law and cease immediately all unlawful actions. “All those responsible for crimes under international law - including war crimes - must face justice.”

Earlier this week, the Russian authorities and their proxies in the Russian-occupied parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine announced their intention to hold “referenda” on accession to the Russian Federation. Earlier today, representatives of the occupying authorities began making home visits to collect “ballots” from residents. The “referenda” are expected to take five days. The occupying Russian authorities have said that on the fifth and final day of the “referenda” (27 September) so-called polling stations would be open, but not before for security reasons.

Any attempt by Russia to change the legal status of the territories it controls in Ukraine through occupation - including in the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions as well as Crimea and the city of Sevastopol - are a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and a violation of the right of their population under international humanitarian law. Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

“Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the occupying power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

Press release distributed by Media Pigeon on behalf of Amnesty International UK, on Sep 23, 2022. For more information subscribe and follow

Press Office

[email protected]
+44 (0) 20 7413 5566