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Ukraine says any Russian presidential voting in its occupied regions would be 'null and void'

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KYIV, Ukraine -

Ukraine on Saturday condemned Russia's intention to organize presidential election voting in occupied Ukrainian territory next year.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said any such balloting held in the occupied regions in the country would be "null and void" and pledged that any international observers sent to monitor the Russian election would "face criminal responsibility."

"We call on the international community to resolutely condemn Russia's intention to hold presidential elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories, and to impose sanctions on those involved in their organization and conduct," Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.

Lawmakers in Russia on Thursday set the country's 2024 presidential election for March 17. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his candidacy for reelection. He is all but certain to win another six-year term.

Russian authorities are still pondering whether to arrange the voting in Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. Moscow illegally annexed the four regions in September 2022 but only controls parts of them.

Putin subsequently introduced martial law in those areas, and Russian lawmakers amended regulations to allow elections in territories where martial law was in place. Russian authorities held elections in the annexed regions in September for Moscow-installed legislatures; Ukraine and its Western allies denounced the votes as a sham.

The head of Russia's Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said Thursday that together with the Russian military, security forces and the Moscow-appointed governors in Ukraine, election authorities would decide by Dec. 12 on "the possibility of holding" the presidential vote in the Ukrainian regions.

"After weighting in all pros and cons, we will be making this decision. If we decide (to hold the vote), then the next step would be to adopt a plan for holding elections there," Pamfilova was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. "Of course, it will be somewhat different from the balloting in Russian regions, the law allows for it."

Russia does plan to hold the presidential election in the Crimean Peninsula, which it illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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