No democratic legitimacy: Ukraine demands allies shun Putin’s inauguration

Ukraine’s foreign ministry declared “no legal grounds” exist for viewing Putin as a “democratically elected and legitimate president of the Russian Federation.”

With Russian President Vladimir Putin set to be officially sworn in for another term on Tuesday, Ukraine made an extraordinary appeal to its international partners – do not recognize him as a legitimate leader.

In a statement published Monday, Ukraine’s foreign ministry declared “no legal grounds” exist for viewing Putin as a “democratically elected and legitimate president of the Russian Federation.” The strident call came just a day before the Kremlin’s choreographed inauguration ceremony formalizing Putin’s rule until 2028.

“Russia has irreversibly transformed into a source of danger for the entire democratic world,” the ministry stated, accusing the Kremlin of turning the Russian state into “an appendage of Putin’s personal interests.” It argued that sham elections marred by repression and censorship render any claim to democratic legitimacy null and void.

The provocative demand for allies to symbolically delegitimize Putin’s rule reflects the scorched-earth nature of relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Over a year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two nations remain mired in an existential military conflict with no clear diplomatic offramp.

While unlikely to be heeded by most nations, Ukraine’s appeal taps into growing international wariness over Putin’s continuation of his two decades of authoritarian rule in Russia. The imprisonments of opposition figures, curbs on free media, and a crackdown on dissent have steadily eroded Russia’s democratic bona fides during his tenure.

Western powers have already taken punishing measures against Putin and his inner circle, imposing severe personal and economic sanctions over the war in Ukraine. However, the step of not recognizing Putin’s legitimacy as head of state would be an additional symbolic escalation.

So far, the United States, European Union and others have remained circumspect, refusing to directly brand Putin an illegitimate leader and acknowledging Russia’s status as a nuclear-armed U.N. Security Council member. But Kyiv sees delegitimizing Putin on the world stage as another tool to politically and diplomatically isolate the Kremlin.