Press Releases Russia: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP Plenary on Russia’s presidential elections

Russia: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP Plenary on Russia’s presidential elections

President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

As you know very well, the Russian presidential elections held on 15-17 March met no democratic standards and were illegally held in the occupied territories of Ukraine – temporarily occupied.

These elections were based on repressive laws, persecution of political opposition leaders, civil society representatives and journalists – including those opposing Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. These elections were marked with arbitrary detentions, the terror caused by the poisoning and death of key figures, like Alexei Navalny. They took place under a flood of disinformation, lack of access to independent media and a strong propaganda supported by massive public funds, for many years.

So, to call that “elections” is an irony.

For the first time, Russian authorities decided not to invite observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). This is not only contrary to Russia’s own international commitments but has denied Russia’s voters and institutions the transparency and independent assessment of these elections.

In an autocracy like Russia, where freedom of information and checks and balances just do not exist, official electoral figures need to be assessed against the full electoral context.

The fact is that all the above abusive measures guaranteed Putin an electoral process free from genuine political competence and deprived the Russian citizens of their right to stand in the elections and make a free and informed political choice with their vote.

That is why, on behalf of the European Union, I want to reiterate here that I strongly condemn the illegitimate elections that Russia has organised in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.

As the European Union High Representative for Foreign [Affairs] and Security Policy, I have never shied away from bringing our message to Putin’s regime, to uphold the rights of all Russian political leaders and activists, civil society representatives, human rights’ defenders and independent media; to firmly condemn the attempted illegal annexations of Ukrainian territories and now Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine. The European Union has demonstrated and will keep demonstrating that any continued internal repression and external aggression by Putin’s regime do have negative consequences.

Russia’s regime underestimated the resilience and unity of the Europeans.

We have demonstrated that our unity is unbreakable, and that, despite Russia’s attempts to interfere in our Democracies – as I am sure they will try to do again in the next European elections – and no matter how much they invest in disinformation, on manipulation of information and, even trying to pay or maybe paying a few European politicians to spread Russia’s propaganda. This is despicable – not only illegal – and I welcome that our strong democratic institutions are already taking measures to investigate and condemn these acts.

I want to praise the strong political stand of this Parliament, which has never hesitated to support the unprecedented measures that the European Union has taken to respond to both the internal and international aggressions by the Russian regime.

As the members of this Parliament know very well, we have imposed – by unanimity of all Member States – 13 sanctions packages to respond to Russia’s aggression of Ukraine – invasion of Ukraine.

And following Navalny’s death, we imposed sanctions against 33 persons and two entities under the Human rights Sanctions Regime. By the way, a regime that I proposed to create in my first Foreign Affairs Council as High Representative and now, we have it in order to fight against the human rights violators. And now we have a new Russia[-specific] sanctions regime which is under discussion by Member States, and I hope it will be approved swiftly as well.

Russia’s economy and [its] war machinery has been considerably weakened by our sanctions. And over time, the effect of these sanctions will be increasingly evident, as volume and quality of investments deteriorate, and Russia is being deprived of the advanced technologies needed to support its war and its growth.

We expose Russia’s propaganda, disinformation and interference, and information manipulation orchestrated by Putin’s regime. And I invite all of you to watch and share the EUvsDisinfo website and its social media account to continue raising awareness on this threat.

We have cut our dependency on Russian gas. The value of the European Union’s imports from Russia fell by 82 % between February 2022 and December 2023. An 82% decrease means almost vanishing.

We have reduced our dependency on Russian gas imports from 40% of total imports in 2021 to 15% in 2023. And with our sanctions, we have not only successfully diversified away from Russian fossil fuels, but curtailed Russia’s ability to weaponise its energy supplies, cut major revenue streams of the Kremlin and supported lower energy prices in Europe, after the big boost of the last summer.

Honourable Members, all that is ok, well done. We have to continue doing more and quicker.

We have to continue supporting Russian independent media, civil society and human rights activists inside and outside Russia. We have to support the Russian NGOs and human rights defenders. They deserve to receive our support and we assist Russian-language independent media and journalists. And the European Union institutions and its Member States have already provided Ukraine with quite a big figure of €96 billion of support. We are reaching the €100 billion of support to Ukraine. And, inside this figure, €31 billion are military support. And additionally to that, there is the macro-financial, humanitarian and other kinds of support.

Some may say: “Oh, it is very expensive to support Ukraine.”. Not to support Ukraine and let Ukraine fall in front of the Russian aggression will be much more expensive for us, and for the generations to come because Russia will become a bigger threat to our security and freedom.

Yes, we have to support Ukraine for as long as it takes and putting in action all our capacities – financial and military.

Honourable Members,

This is a good occasion to commit to continuing upholding the human rights of all Russians. Because we have nothing against the Russian people. Neither us nor the Ukrainians are in war with the Russian people. They are just defending [themselves] from a regime that uses war in order to change the political system and to cancel their independency and sovereignty.

And we are supporting them and offering an unwavering support to our neighbour Ukraine. Not just because it is our neighbour, because it is our partner. One of our most partners and now a candidate to become a member of the European Union.

And its independency, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity are also part of our capacity to continue living in freedom.

So, please, support the actions taken by the European institutions and the Member States to continue supporting Ukraine, and make clear that, last elections in Russia have been neither free nor fair.

Thank you.

Link to the video (starting at 00:42):


Closing remarks 

Thank you, President.

I am very happy that so many Members [of Parliament] came to listen to my concluding remarks to this important debate.

Thank you for your attention. I am not joking. The debate is important because what has happened in Russia is important.

These elections did not bring any change in Russia and so, there is no change in our policy towards Russia.

The Russian elections took place in an ever-shrinking political space. Russian voters were deprived of a real choice. Many candidates were precluded from running, including all those who opposed Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Happy to see that all the Members that took the floor in this debate support the important work that we are doing in order to support the Russian civil society organisations, the human rights defenders and independent media.

As regards the rights of minorities in the electoral process, according to the Russian Constitution, Russian citizens including minorities can run to vote. And we have been topping up the funding for Russian pro-democracy [and] anti-war actors in size and in number of operations. We will continue supporting the Russian human rights defenders and their agenda in international human [rights] fora.

We monitor judicial cases in Russia together with Member States.

Support to independent media is crucial, as it has been demonstrated in the electoral context. All Russians should have access to reliable information.

We will continue calling on Russia to abolish its repressive legislation concerning what they claim to be “foreign agents”. Anyone of you [Members of the European Parliament] would be considered “undesirable”, or more recently “wanted”. And to be called “undesirable” or “wanted” in Russia opens the doors to arbitrary detentions.

I think I have to finish my speech, because maybe you have more important things to do in the coming moments. I know you are going to face important decisions, but I want to reiterate that Russia must cease its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, withdraw its military forces, [as was also demanded by] the United Nations General Assembly by an overwhelming majority of 141 Member States.

The international community has sent this message, loud and clear. And I am very happy to see in this debate that we count the support of the European Parliament.

Thank you.


Link to the video:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *