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Russians bring in a diverse group of foreign propagandists to legitimise the sham "elections" in Kherson oblast

11.09.2023, 14:22

The Russians brought in seven propagandists and pseudo-experts from India, Brazil, Mozambique, Spain, Iceland and the Netherlands to monitor the sham elections in the occupied part of Kherson oblast as they were held on September 8–10, 2023. Photos of the delegation have been posted by pro-Russian media outlets.

The IMI representative in Kherson oblast analyzed the reports in the Russian Telegram channel "Nova Kakhovka" and shared his findings.

The first (left) person in the photo is a Spanish citizen, Enrique Javier Refoyo Acedo: little known in his homeland, but promoted by Russian propaganda. In March 2018, he was first included in the lists of foreign citizens who have illegally visited the occupied Crimea. Acedo is a member of the Spanish association "East–Solidarity–Donbas", a political scientist and a translator; he took part in the forum "Russia: The Country of Opportunity". He is also a member of the so-called think tank "Katehon", which is waging an information war against Ukraine.

Photo from a Russian pro-state Telegram channel

According to the SBU, the Russian Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev was his patron.

Next in the photo stands the Brazilian citizen Enrique Dominguez, who has been sanctioned by Ukraine.

In 2021, he intended to buy the Russian Covid vaccine in bulk for Brazil, but US President Joe Biden prevented him from doing so. Dominguez was awarded for his work in pro-Russian propaganda in the spring of 2022, and in autumn he was assigned an "observer" at the "referendum" in Zaporizhzhia oblast. In 2023, Enrique Dominguez took part in the international economic forum in St. Petersburg (Russia), where he is studying, and as early as September he was persuading the readers of Russian media outlets that the elections in Chaplynka, Kherson oblast, were fair and transparent. Russians now call him an "electoral expert".

Moreover, Dominguez is the CEO of the International Forum of BRICS Municipalities.

Next to him stands Sonja van den Ende, who calls herself an independent journalist from the Netherlands, but has been living in Russia for over two years.

She has repeatedly visited the occupied part of the Donbas, praising pro-Russian militants and the Russian army. For this, the Netherlands has imposed sanctions on her and frozen her bank account. The country also blocked her websites.

In her interview to Russian propagandists, she claimed that she was sure that if she were to come back to the Netherlands, she would be prosecuted. "I have already received a notice from the police. They are not accusing me of terrorism yet, but of 'supporting the regime,'" she said.

As the IMI representative reminds, Sonja van den Ende has been whitewashing Russia since the MH17 plane crash in July 2014, when 298 people died. 193 of them were her compatriots.

In the autumn of 2022, she was an "observer" at the sham referendum in Luhansk oblast.

The fourth "expert" is Dário Abdula Camal from Mozambique. In 2018, an African media outlet called him a well-known activist, a member of various International and World Youth forums such as the Pan-African Union of Youth, United Nations Youth, SADC Youth, BRICS Youth Forum, Youth Energy Forum, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, etc.

In 2019, he completed a Masters program at the Moscow Higher School of Economics and was vocally calling himself a volunteer for the ICRC, Greenpeace, the International Fund for Saving Children and UNICEF until 2021. There are no mentions of Dário Abdula Camal on the websites of these organizations.

Commenting to Russian propagandists on the voting process in the illegal elections in Skadovsk, Dário Abdula Camal claimed that he did not see any violations.

Screenshot by IMI

At that moment in the video, an armed man in a balaclava is walking around the polling station in the background.

The next person in the photo is Purnima Anand from India. She is the President of the BRICS International Forum and the Honorary President of the International Federation of Indian and Russian Youth Clubs.

In March 2018, Anand was an observer at the presidential elections in Russia as part of an international monitoring mission's political delegation. In 2022, she called on the international community to recognize the unlawful "referendums" in Ukraine's occupied territories.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections considers her a member of the pro-Kremlin network of politically biased election observation.

Standing next to her are Erna Ýr Öldudóttir and Konráð Magnússon from Iceland.

Last September, Öldudóttir visited the occupied regions of Ukraine, wrote a series of articles for a local publication and commented to a "foreign" website on the Russian referendum in the occupied territories being legal. The website's domain name is .su, which means "Soviet Union", and the article itself is a translation of a material from a Russian propaganda resource.

She is currently a columnist for and in her articles parrots such Russian propaganda clichés as "NATO and the US are using Ukraine for the war with Russia" and cites pro-state Russian media. The outlet itself almost always interprets the events in Ukraine in terms of Russian propaganda. They deny that the Holodomor was a genocide and that there were Russians in Bucha committing war crimes.

This outlet is not very popular and most of its traffic comes from clicks on Facebook.

Her compatriot is even less known in his homeland and in the world. The only time an Icelandic media outlet has reported on him was last year: then, on the eve of the sham referendum in the occupied territories in September 2022, he was looking for local journalists who would like to make some money by covering the "referendum".

Konráð Magnússon sent invitations to various mass media in Iceland, offering reporters to monitor the sham voting in the Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine.

In an interview to a local news agency Magnússon has said that the travelling and accommodation expenses for those journalists would be covered by the Russian government's special fund.

Magnússon claimed that this fund was affiliated with a minister in Bashkortostan (Russia), but he did not specify which minister, exactly.

The IMI representative did not find any materials about the illegal referendum written by Magnússon for Icelandic media outlets, so it is impossible to tell whether he himself visited the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine last year. However, this year, in addition to his assertions that the "elections" in the occupied part of Kherson oblast are legal and fair, he has already claimed that the Russian embassy in Reykjavik needs to be reopened. During his trip to the occupied Henichesk (Kherson oblast), he said that he hopes to restore the work of the Russian representative office in Iceland. Russian media refer to Konráð Magnússon a public figure and entrepreneur.

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