The European Union on Thursday criticized a vote in Russia that could allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.
« We expect all reports and allegations of irregularities, including voter coercion, multiple voting, violation of secrecy of the vote and allegations of police violence against a journalist who was present to observe, to be duly investigated, » an EU spokesperson said in a statement about the vote that changes the Russian constitution to allow Putin to run two more times after his current term ends in 2024.
According to official preliminary results, 78 percent voted in favor of the amendments, versus 21 percent against. Turnout was about 65 percent.
The EU « regrets that, in the run-up to this vote, campaigning both for and against was not allowed, thereby denying voters access to balanced information, » the spokesperson added.
In the statement, the EU criticized another aspect of the vote, involving an addition to Article 79 of the constitution, which gives the Russian constitution primacy over international treaties. « The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member, has considered this addition incompatible with Russia’s international obligations and recommended that this addition be removed or the wording amended, » said the spokesperson, stressing that « we expect Russia, regardless of any amendments to its constitution, to live up to its international obligations, including its obligation to execute European Court of Human Rights judgments. »
Speaking during the regular midday briefing, Peter Stano, spokesperson of the European External Action Service, the bloc’s diplomat body, said « we are committed to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine » and thereby « we don’t recognize the vote in Crimea and in the eastern part of Ukraine — it was not even supposed to be organized there. »