Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen: Russia Shouldn’t Become “Belarus Writ Large”

WASHINGTON – Today, the Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), noted with regret Russia’s movement away from democratic norms – as reflected in the December 2 elections to the Russian State Duma — and hoped that Russia would not become a “Belarus writ large.”

“It is regrettable that the conduct of Russia’s State Duma elections were fraught with numerous violations of widely accepted democratic standards,” said Chairman Hastings, “especially in the pre-election campaign period, which at times made Russia look like Belarus writ large.” I truly hope that this will not be Russia’s future direction.” “Despite his denials, it would seem clear that President Putin allowed government officials to use their coercive power to produce the desired turnout and results. I realize that a large number of Russian citizens genuinely admire and support Mr. Putin for the economic progress and political stability he has accomplished, and I respect the choice they have made. Nevertheless, true democracies, and Russia claims to be one, do not make a mockery of elections.”

“President Putin was running public approval numbers that would be the envy of the heads of state of any modern democracy.”  There was no need to seize opposition literature, confiscate computers, intimidate and beat up campaign workers.    The tactics used by Russian officials to assure a heavy vote total in favor of Mr. Putin and his “United Russia” Party, does not bode well for democratic governance and civil liberties in Russia’s future,” Co-Chairman Cardin further remarked.

Russian and international media have reported that President Putin and his “United Russia” party won approximately 63 percent of the vote. Their nearest competitor, the Communist Party, gained approximately 11 percent of the vote. News reports described “unprecedented administrative pressure and harassment” (Washington Post, November 30, 2007), including in some cases physical attacks, employed throughout Russia by authorities loyal to the Kremlin to disrupt the opposition and bring out the vote for President Putin and “United Russia.”

International observers were quoted as finding the elections failing to meet democratic standards, because the government abused its power to sway the vote in favor of President Putin and his “United Russia” Party, while harassing opposition parties and candidates. According to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Mr. Goran Lennmarker, the vote “failed to meet many of the commitments and standards that we have.”

Belarus, Russia’s western neighbor, is ruled by the authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, and has been described by the U.S. State Department as “the last dictatorship in Europe.”


Media contact

Filter Topics Open Close

Helsinki Commission Advances Human Rights, Demands f...

Oct 19, 2023

By Shannon Simrell, Senior Policy Advisor Between October 2-13, 11 Helsinki Commission staff joined approximately 1,400 representatives of OSCE participating States (pS) and civil society representatives in Warsaw, Poland in an annual review of the human rights records of OSCE States. U.S. leadership highlighted demands for accountability from Russia and Belarus for their human rights […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Deeply Concerned Over Latest Ele...

Jul 27, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and  Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) today expressed deep concern about an effort by the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia to impose changes on the country’s electoral system barely two months prior to general elections in early October. They issued the following joint statement: “We share the concerns […]

Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Welcomes Conclusion of First Round...

Apr 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the first round of presidential elections in France on April 10, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “As co-chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Helsinki Commission, I congratulate the French people for making their voices heard on Sunday during the first round of their presidential elections. France is among the […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Supports Invocation of OSCE’s Vi...

Nov 10, 2021

WASHINGTON—Following the invocation of the OSCE’s Vienna Mechanism to address the mounting human rights crisis in Belarus, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “One year after the release of a comprehensive, […]

helsinki commission logo 368x331

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest September 2021

Sep 30, 2021

In the News

The Russian election was supposed to shore up Putin’...

Sep 25, 2021

Electoral precinct 40, located in a charming historic area a few minutes’ walking distance from the Kremlin, is among the few in Moscow that can be trusted to count votes honestly. Ever since I first voted here at the age of 18, the official tallies have always reflected the actual votes cast. In Moscow’s 2013 mayoral […]


Seeking Justice and Freedom in Belarus

Sep 21, 2021

In 2020, mass protests against the fraudulent election of Alexander Lukashenko shook Belarus. Since then, Lukashenko and his illegitimate regime have clung to power by committing ever more serious acts of repression against advocates of democracy and free expression. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in pre-trial detention or have been sentenced to years in prison […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leaders Blast So-Called Election...

Sep 21, 2021

WASHINGTON—Following the sham State Duma elections in Russia, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “From barring opposition candidates to stuffing ballot boxes and manipulating vote totals, there is ample evidence that these parliamentary […]

Press Releases

Repression in Belarus Focus of Upcoming Helsinki Com...

Sep 16, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: SEEKING JUSTICE AND FREEDOM IN BELARUS Tuesday, September 21, 2021 2:30 p.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 419 Watch live: More than a year has passed since mass protests against the fraudulent election of Alexander […]

Press Releases

Chairman Cardin Joins Bipartisan Resolution Highligh...

Aug 09, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce a resolution on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus through which Alexander Lukashenko seized power for a sixth term.  The resolution, led by Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. […]


Cardin and Wicker Discuss July 2021 Congressional De...

Jul 21, 2021

Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I take this time to talk about the work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in a recent opportunity we had to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I am joined on the floor by Senator Wicker, who is the Republican chair of the Helsinki Commission. The two of us have worked […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Delegation Advances Priority Iss...

Jul 15, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) last week led a U.S. delegation to the 2021 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Annual Session in Vienna, Austria. The assembly was the first major gathering with an in-person component since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The 2021 […]