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14 May, 2024 21:03

Blinken reveals US conditions for Ukrainian elections

The American diplomat suggested that Washington will potentially allow Vladimir Zelensky to remain in power indefinitely
Blinken reveals US conditions for Ukrainian elections

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Ukraine will hold elections when all Ukrainians – including those now living in Russian territory – decide the time is right. Blinken’s conditions essentially permit Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to postpone a vote unless these territories are recaptured.

“We’re working with the government and civil society groups to shore up Ukraine’s election infrastructure,” Blinken said in a speech at Kiev Polytechnic Institute on Tuesday.

“That way, as soon as Ukrainians agree that conditions allow, all Ukrainians – all Ukrainians including those displaced by Russia’s aggression – can exercise their right to vote,” he continued. “People in Ukraine and around the world can have confidence that the voting process is free, fair, and secure.”

Ukraine was supposed to hold a presidential election on March 31, but Zelensky canceled the vote last year, citing martial law and the conflict with Russia. “We must realize that now is the time of defense, the time of the battle that determines the fate of the state and people,” he said at the time. “I believe that now is not the right time for elections.”

Blinken’s statement implies that the US does not expect Zelensky to hold elections unless the millions of Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe, and those living in the formerly Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye, can take part. This is highly unlikely, since residents of these regions voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation in September 2022. 

Few analysts in Kiev or the Western capitals now believe that Ukraine stands a chance of regaining control of these territories, much less Crimea. Zelensky still promises that his forces will do so, but this belief in Ukraine’s victory has been described as “delusional” by his own aides.

“Our leadership, in my assessment, exhausted the limits of its competence a long time ago,” his former adviser, Aleksey Arestovich wrote in October. In order to pull the country out of its current “dead end,” he urged Zelensky to hold elections as planned this year, and to accept that his goal of retaking Crimea and restoring Ukraine’s 1991 borders will not happen, despite the “blood, sweat, and tears” of the Ukrainian people.

In his speech, Blinken praised Zelensky for introducing tough new conscription laws, and vowed that the US will keep bankrolling the Ukrainian military “until Ukraine’s security, sovereignty, its ability to choose its own path is guaranteed.”

Moscow has repeatedly warned that continued Western military aid to Ukraine will only prolong the conflict without changing its outcome. In a statement earlier this month, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) claimed that the US does not care whether Zelensky or someone else leads the country, as long as the “war till the last Ukrainian” does not stop.