The Center for Information Resilience (CIR), a UK independent, non-profit social enterprise, has reported on the foreign observers behind The Russian sham referenda held in occupied Ukraine. According to the CIR report, those observers appeared to be “very much the C‑team of election observers”:
October 3, 2022 In the handful of days between the announcement of the referendums and the commencement of voting on 23 September, at least several dozen citizens of foreign countries appear to have been brought into the occupied territories from Moscow and elsewhere. It is unclear exactly how many, as the counts of “foreign observers” released by the occupation administrations include significant numbers of Russian politicians and other Russian observers. A forthcoming report from CIR’s ‘Life Under Occupation’ series will provide a more comprehensive picture of those collaborators and enablers of the occupation sent from Russia to occupied areas, specifically, to the Kherson region. On their arrival, these observers were feted by the occupation administration. In some cases, they were personally chaperoned around polling stations by leaders of the occupation and were trotted out for Russian state media to pronounce how fairly and transparently the referendums were being run. So who exactly were these people? The short answer appears to be, anyone who would come. It appears likely that the sudden decision to hold the referendums prompted a mad scramble through the proverbial Rolodexes of past contacts to find people willing to get on a plane the following day, in some cases literally. There is a notable absence of foreign politicians, active diplomats or officials, or significant public figures. This appears to be very much the C‑team of election observers, even compared to the calibre of observers at previous Russian elections.
Read the full report here.
The CIR goes on to divide the observers into four categories:
- Far-right and far-left European political figures
- Pro-Russian bloggers, public commentators, social media figures, and journalists with a history of working for Russian media
- Former and fringe diplomatic figures and failed politicians
- African National Congress Youth League
One notable figure is Sonja Van den Ende, a Dutch former member of the Socialist Party and blogger who describes herself as an “independent journalist.” An April 2022 Dutch media report provides a taste of Van den Ende’s “reporting.”
Among the “self-appointed” journalists from unspecified media outlets, was Sonja van der Ende, former member of the Socialist Party and blogger, whose Facebook page has 4,800 followers. “It turned out that we could go to Ukraine under the protection of the Russian army to show the truth about the crimes committed by the Ukrainians during the war, which they had provoked,” van der Ende told Algemeen Dagblad. Previously, she was “uncovering the truth” about the COVID-19 pandemic on her blog, where she describes a secret global government, Western plans to bring Russia to its knees, and the ineffectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine. In her opinion, the Bucha massacre was faked and there was no attack on the hospital in Mariupol. The true crime is being committed against the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine.
Among her myriad propaganda efforts on behalf of Russia was attendance at a press conference earlier this month in the studio of Russian propaganda outlets RIA Novosti and Sputnik, where she tweeted that she and everybody else on the panel were on “a kill list of the secret service of Ukraine set up by the CIA and NATO. There are also children on this list.”