Malta’s decision to attend Vladimir Putin’s inauguration ceremony on Tuesday was driven by it being at the helm of OSCE, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Times of Malta.

The spokesperson said that “a conscious decision” had been taken to attend the ceremony, “based on the principles which the Chair in Office of this organisation should promote for the survival of such an organisation”

Nonetheless, they added, this “does not, in any way, alter or soften Malta’s strong condemnation of the Russian Government’s actions in Ukraine”.

Malta was one of just six European countries to attend Vladimir Putin’s inauguration on Tuesday, with most other European countries choosing to sit out the ceremony.

Aside from Malta, representatives from France, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia also attended the inauguration. Malta was represented by its Ambassador to Russia, Carmel Inguanez.

The spokesperson said that Malta also remains steadfast in its condemnation of elections in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Malta will never recognise Russian elections in occupied territories of Ukraine, or their respective results. In this regard, Malta together with the EU stands by the people in Russia who support democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson described Malta’s “unequivocal condemnation” of Russia’s war in Ukraine as “clear and well-known to all” and “proven through Malta’s actions in several international fora during these past two years”.

Malta currently chairs the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe - a post it assumed at the turn of the year as members of the regional security body scrambled to find a chair that would be acceptable to both Russia and western countries. 

EU foreign chief Borrell warned member states against attending

Earlier this week, an open letter by the EPP group to Josep Borrell, the European Commission’s foreign affairs chief, urged diplomatic representatives from EU member states to boycott the inauguration, arguing that Putin should not be given “any occasion to institute his ‘legitimacy’”.

Borrell, who hails from the EP’s socialist grouping, agreed, on Tuesday saying that he had advised member states not to attend the inauguration.

Borrell said it would be “contradictory” for member states to attend the inauguration in light of Putin’s indictment by the International Criminal Court, as well as the EU’s position that the Russian elections were “neither free nor fair”.

“My advice to the Member States was not to attend, and I hope that many of them, most of them, will follow this indication. But each Member State is fully sovereign to decide to go or not to go,” he said.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Photo: ShutterstockEU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Photo: Shutterstock

Replying to questions over Borrell’s advice, the foreign ministry spokesperson said that “Malta subscribed to the EU common position regarding the Russian presidential elections, as outlined by the Josep Borrell on 18th March”.

‘Stage-managed’ elections see Putin win a fifth term

Putin, who rose to power in 1999, won a fifth term as Russia’s leader in a landslide victory, securing over 88% of the vote in the March presidential election.

The European Parliament described the election as “stage-managed”, saying that “changes to Russia's electoral laws make it virtually impossible to conduct any meaningful monitoring”.

Election observers from OSCE, which regularly monitors elections around Europe for their transparency, were not invited to observe the elections.

The election came just weeks after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in mysterious circumstances in the Arctic prison where he was serving a 19-year jail term.

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