Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have drafted a resolution demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin not be recognized as legitimate president of Russia if he remains for the fifth term in 2024.
Amendments to the Russian Constitution, introduced in 2020 which are "waiving the term limit" for Putin, were approved "in violation of the laws of the Russian Federation and the commitments of the Russian Federation under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe", according to a resolution prepared by Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen and Republican from South Carolina Joe Wilson.
Putin has twice used the "two consecutive terms" limit set by the Russian Constitution, and his powers expire on May 7, 2024.
According to the congressmen, the vote on the amendments, which allows Putin to stay for a fifth and sixth term, was accompanied by "widespread reports of organized voter coercion, multiple voting, ballot-stuffing, and violation of the secrecy of the ballot, and by one-sided media coverage in favor of the amendments, while opponents of the amendments were not given airtime in the media and had their campaign rallies prohibited and their websites blocked", the draft resolution says.
The voting itself was held “over 7 days and was conducted not only in regular polling places but also in makeshift locations, including park benches, car trunks, and shopping carts, with ballots stored overnight by the electoral commissions with no independent oversight”, congressmen write.
"In violation of the laws of the Russian Federation and the commitments of the Russian Federation under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe, Russian authorities did not invite international observers to monitor the vote and limited domestic observers to those appointed by state controlled Public Chambers," the document reads.
The Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation began announcing the results of the plebiscite before voting had concluded, and the final figure - 78% in support of the amendments - was significantly higher than that given by public opinion polls, making the plebiscite " the most manipulated vote in the modern history of the Russian Federation", congressmen state.
The congressmen refer to the document of the Moscow meeting of the OSCE Conference on the Human Dimension, which explicitly states that "issues relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned " of a particular state.
The congressmen proposed to consider that the adoption of amendments to the Constitution and waving Putin's term limit was "illegal", and any attempt by Putin to remain in office beyond May 7, 2024 " shall warrant nonrecognition on the part of the United States ".
Earlier, the European Parliament called the amendments to the Russian Constitution illegal. In a recommendatory resolution adopted last September, the European Parliament called on the EU authorities "to demand that Russia repeal or revise all laws incompatible with international standards," including constitutional changes.
"Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, has undertaken to respect fundamental freedoms, human rights and the rule of law in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Freedoms," the MEPs wrote.
Russia has already expressed its indignation in this regard. According to the First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, the adoption of this resolution will lead to Russia severing diplomatic relations wit the U.S. "I am sure that this document will not pass. But if the resolution is adopted, it will lead to the rupture of relations between Russia and the United States," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
According to Vladimir Putin's secretary Dmitry Peskov, US congressmen are conducting "quite unprecedented" legislative activities that do not fit into the framework of modern international relations.
"Every time it seems to us that nothing more ridiculous, nothing more aggressive, unfriendly and unconstructive from the other side of the ocean can come anymore. And every time we get it wrong. It comes, unfortunately," Peskov said. "This is a demonstration that the United States is interfering in the internal affairs of other countries."
"We consider such initiatives of congressmen unacceptable. We consider it an interference in our affairs, and we are convinced that only Russians can determine who and when should be the president of the Russian Federation. No other country in the world, parliamentarians of any other country in the world can claim this," the Kremlin spokesman said.