Over the last few years, the world has witnessed Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries: from meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, to the military occupation of Ukrainian territories. In its subversive operations the Kremlin hacked into servers, subjected infrastructure and organizations to cyberattacks, and deployed legions of internet trolls on social media to spread lies and disinformation. In response to Kremlin threat, an international rapid-response team will monitor and expose any attempts by Russia to interfere in the upcoming Ukrainian presidential elections in 2019. The team is comprised of experts from the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, the Razumkov Center, a Ukrainian think tank, and Stop Fake, a multilingual volunteer project for debunking Russian propaganda.
Articles about voting issues in Ukraine.
Kiev has condemned elections in Russian-backed separatist controlled areas of eastern Ukraine as illegitimate and unlawful. Residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, which broke away from Ukraine in a bloody conflict with the pro-Western government in 2014, voted for new leaders of the regions on Sunday. Alexander Zakharcheno, the previous “prime minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was assassinated in a bombing in the city August. Kremlin-annointed candidates are almost guaranteed to win the polls after potential rivals were prevented from running. “The current attempt by Russia to justify, organize and then legitimize a fake ‘voting’ process in the occupied Donbas represents a flagrant violation of norms and principles of international law and Ukrainian legislation and constitutes a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Residents of the eastern Ukraine regions controlled by Russia-backed separatist rebels voted Sunday for local governments in elections denounced by Kiev and the West. The elections were to choose heads of government and legislature members in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, where separatists have fought Ukrainian forces since the spring of 2014 in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people. Although a 2015 accord on ending the war calls for local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk, critics including Ukraine’s president, the U.S. and the European Union say the vote is illegitimate because it is conducted where Ukraine has no control. But the separatists say the vote is a key step toward establishing full-fledged democracy in the regions.
The parliament renewed Ukraine’s highest election body, the Central Election Commission, ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections. On September 20, the parliament replaced all 13 CEC members who were serving on expired terms. In a swift decision—too swift in the opinion of the opposition—the Rada expanded the membership of the CEC from 15 to 17. Parliament appointed fourteen presidential nominees, two members were carried over from the old CEC, and one seat was left vacant. Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy and BPP representative Iryna Lutsenko both promised that a nominee from the Opposition Bloc will soon join. Thus, all parliamentary factions will be represented on the renewed CEC. This move can’t come soon enough. The country will hold its presidential election in March and parliamentary polls in October.
Ukraine has set up a group to stop any attempt by Russia to influence next year’s elections, a state security body said on Thursday. The National Council for Security and Defence, which is headed by President Petro Poroshenko, established the special group ahead of presidential elections in March and parliamentary elections next October. Relations between Kiev and Moscow collapsed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine that Moscow backed.
Ukraine: Russia, Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies will attempt to influence upcoming Ukrainian elections | InterFax
Russia will try to influence the presidential election campaign in Ukraine through social networks, cyber attacks and sabotage technologies. So will Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies, political analysts have said. “The participation of the so-called “siloviki” (power ministries) is not yet traced, but the fact they will participate in the election campaign is understandable,” political analyst Volodymyr Tsybulko said at a press conference in Kyiv on Wednesday. “The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) is working on criminal cases against some candidates. Ukraine’s National Corruption Prevention Center (NACP) is also actively working, and there are criminal cases at Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO). There is a figure such as [ex-MP from Batkivschyna Party faction] Shepelev, who gives evidence. Sooner or later these investigations can affect the behavior of candidates and even the fate of certain candidates,” he said.
The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region. “The United States condemns the announcement of a plan to conduct ‘elections’ in the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,'” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on September 12. “Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict. She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”
At a glance, Valeriy Striganov seems like an unremarkable Ukrainian civil servant. But he has a monumental mission: as head of the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) IT Department, Striganov is tasked with protecting the upcoming March 2019 presidential elections from a cyber attack. “We find malware every day,” Striganov said with a laugh, peering out from behind a Republic of Gamers-branded laptop that he bought for his job. The question for Ukraine’s cyber security professionals is not so much whether an attack on the election will take place — that is almost completely assured. Rather, it’s how such an offensive will take place.
On June 15, Yulia Tymoshenko launched the start of Ukraine’s presidential election season with a two-and-half hour speech in Kyiv, Ukraine. With twenty-nine percent of voters telling pollsters they haven’t made their minds up for the race slated for March 31, the field is wide open. But it’s not too soon to start worrying about the many ways in which the Kremlin may meddle in the election. The first way to meddle is easy: support pro-Russian candidates. Polls show that in spite of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian candidates still enjoy strong approval ratings. Among them are Yuriy Boyko, former vice prime minister and an MP with support at 9.7%, and Vadim Rabinovich, leader of the “For Life” party at 9.5%. Both have over twenty years in politics and their records strongly support the Kremlin.
Ukraine accused the Russian security services Saturday of planning and launching a cyberattack that locked up computers around the world earlier this week. The Ukrainian security agency, known as the SBU, alleged in a statement that similarities between the malicious software and previous attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure revealed the work of Russian intelligence services. The SBU added that the attackers appeared uninterested in making a profit from the ransomware program and were more focused on sowing chaos in Ukraine. There was no immediate official response from Russia’s government, but Russian lawmaker Igor Morozov told the RIA Novosti news agency that the Ukrainian charges were “fiction” and that the attacks were likely the work of the United States.