Presidential elections in Ukraine are scheduled for March 31, 2019 / Photo from UNIAN

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, has passed Bill No. 9524 "On Amendments to Certain Laws on Observing the Electoral Process in Ukraine" that bans citizens of the Russian Federation from being recruited as election observers for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

The document was backed in the first reading and as a whole by 232 MPs, an UNIAN correspondent reported on February 7.

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The draft law stipulates that a person who is a citizen (subject) of a state recognized by the Verkhovna Rada as an aggressor or occupying state cannot be an official observer at elections of Ukrainian president and members of parliament, as well local elections. In addition, the person suggested by an aggressor or occupying state cannot serve as an observer as well.

According to the author of the draft law, Ukrainian MP and Representative of the Ukrainian president in the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Lutsenko, the document was developed in order to minimize the risks and threats of Russia's interference in Ukraine's election campaign.

The law on peculiarities of the state policy on ensuring the state sovereignty of Ukraine in the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions stipulates that Russia is an aggressor with regard to Ukraine, as well as an occupying state that temporarily occupied part of its territory. According to the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, Russia is plotting unprecedented meddling in Ukraine's elections, having allocated about US$350 million for its intelligence services.

As stated in the explanatory note to the bill, the presence of Russian election observers in Ukraine can be a pretext for information attacks by distorting facts about the election campaign, as well as a decline in confidence as for the Ukrainian people's choice.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia has already noted that the Russian Federation will seek admission of its observers to the Ukrainian presidential campaign since it has received an invitation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Given this, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine on January 23 appealed to foreign states and international organizations that intend to monitor the electoral process regarding the careful selection of candidates when taking decision on official observers," the explanatory note reads.