What Is The Controversy Over The Presence Of An Indian “Observer” In The Donbas Referendum?

A strong conspiracy has been stirred talking about the presence of an Indian “observer” during the Donbas referendum. Was there seriously an Indian “representative” or “observer” there? What’s the real story?
What Is The Controversy Over The Presence Of An Indian “Observer” In The Donbas Referendum?
What Is The Controversy Over The Presence Of An Indian “Observer” In The Donbas Referendum?

There have been reports in the Russian media stating that an “observer” from India saw the referendum in the Donbas region that is soon to join Russia in the upcoming days, and such reports have stirred up a controversy. It was an official message from Russia, largely shared on Telegram channels of Donetsk People’s Republic and Moscow, along with the Russia Today TV channel expressing that “representatives from Great Britain, Germany, Syria, Togo, Spain, Colombia, South Africa, Ghana, Serbia, India, Iceland, and Latvia worked at polling stations in Donetsk and Makiivka.”


This becomes a big issue especially when India has insisted both Ukraine and Russia respect one another’s sovereignty and territorial integrity implying that Delhi is unfavorably disposed to the referendum which leads to redrawing the maps of the two countries, Ukraine and Russia.


The Russian authorities' message named Purnima Anand who was “an observer from India” at the time of the referendum. Ms. Purnima Anand is seen by the Russian announcement as the President of the  “BRICS International Forum”. 


During a TV broadcast, Ms. Anand expressed, “In the western media, they tell us that people are forced at gunpoint (to vote). We are here today and we can see for ourselves that the people, whole families with smiles on their faces, are coming to exercise their inalienable right to vote for joining Russia. People are happy, hope shines in their eyes for a peaceful, long-awaited future as part of Russia. And we for our part, understand that after this referendum, the world will become brand new, because now a new history is being created in Donbas.”


The Real Story


It is interesting to note that no authorized participant had been sent to the referendum as either “observer” or “representative” by the Government of India. Moreover, the fact that there is no organization coming under the BRICS and BRICS International Forum (BRICS-IF). All organizations coming under the umbrella of BRICS are intergovernmental organizations. Also, BRICS-IF is not listed under the BRICS initiatives.


Purnima Anand cleared the air by saying that the BRICS-International Forum is nothing but a civil society initiative launched post the arrival of the Narendra Modi government in 2014 and is adhering to the 2015 Ufa BRICS declaration urging for the involvement of civil society initiatives under the BRICS.

She further added that her organization is yet to be registered under the BRICS and stated that, “We would like to register under BRICS but there is no secretariat of BRICS where we can apply for that process. I have been working internationally in Asia as well as Africa for a long time representing civil society.” Ms. Anand also stated that India must not object to her appearance in the referendum. She supported her argument by saying that Russia is a strategic partner and a strong friend of India. “Representatives from 90 countries - from Europe, Africa, Asia - were present in the referendum and as observers, we saw the process of polling was transparent and the territories have voted in large numbers to join Russia,” she further added. Ms. Purnima Anand moved from Donetsk to Moscow post the ending of the polling in Donbas. She shared that she had formerly been a consultant for the World Bank earlier. Moreover, earlier her team encompassed three other members, but Ms. Anand was the only member who traveled to Donbas.


The referendum was held in Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya and ended on Tuesday. There has been a widespread expectation that these four regions are to be encompassed in the Russian sovereign territory. The Kremlin issued an official proclamation declaring the formal merger.

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