KIEV, September 20. /TASS/. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has opened a criminal case into elections to the Russian State Duma (lower house) held in Crimea, the SBU press service said on Monday.
According to the press service, the case was launched on charges of high treason that carry penalties of 12 to 15 years in prison.
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council earlier imposed sanctions on the organizers and participants in the Russian elections in Crimea. Restrictions particularly apply to 33 candidates to the State Duma and 54 members of local election commissions. Security Council Secretary Alexei Danilov announced at a briefing on Friday that the council had also decided to sanction some residents of the Donbass areas not controlled by Kiev. However, he did not name those who would face restrictions.
Crimea's reunification with Russia
After a coup took place in Ukraine in February 2014, authorities in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol held a referendum on reuniting with Russia. Most voters supported the idea (96.7% in Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol), and voter turnout was over 80%. On March 18, 2014, Russian Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was ratified by Russia’s Federal Assembly (parliament) on March 21. However, Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. The countries that refuse to accept Crimea's reunification with Russia don't recognize elections that take place in the region.
Donbass residents' participation in State Duma vote
This year, Donbass residents holding Russian passports for the first time had the chance to participate in the forming of Russia's parliament. About 50 polling stations were set up for them in Russia's southern Rostov region. Those who opted for online voting needed to register in advance, confirming their personal data through a public services website. Nearly 50,000 Donbass residents cast their ballots in the Rostov region, regional election commission chairman Andrei Burov said on Monday. According to him, another 162,000 voters from the self-proclaimed Donbass republics applied to take part in online voting.
On April 24, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree easing Russian citizenship rules for Donbass residents. Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Volodatsky said in April that there were 538,000 Russian citizens living in Donbass.