Australian politician faces backlash over observations of Russian election

A neo-Nazi-linked activist wants the town councilor removed from his position for observing Russia’s presidential election

The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations has demanded that a small-town councilor from Port Hedland in Western Australia be removed from his position for traveling to Russia to observe the country’s recent presidential election and congratulating Vladimir Putin on his “transparent and comprehensive” victory.
Adrian McRae of Port Hedland in Western Australia flew to Moscow last month as part of an international delegation to scrutinize Russia’s presidential election. A little-known councilor from a town of just 15,000 people, McRae drew attention back home when he appeared on Russian TV passing on his congratulations to Putin, who won with 87% of the vote.
“In my lifetime, the world has never seen such a transparent and comprehensive victory as what we saw here over the last three days,” McRae declared.
McRae’s comments angered Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) co-chair Stefan Romanov.
“You’ve made the statements, you’ve offended people, you’ve gone against the international community, you’re trying to portray a picture that those in Russia have voted for a president who is now brutalizing Ukraine,” Romanov said angrily, addressing McRae via ABC News on Tuesday.

“You know what? Go and do your work with the Russian government, go and do your work with the Russian embassy and let somebody represent the community according to community values,” Romanov added.
In addition to leading the AFUO, Romanov was the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists’ Stepan Bandera faction (OUN-B) from 2009 to 2022. Under Bandera and after his arrest, the OUN-B collaborated with Nazi Germany, taking part in the mass murder of Poles during World War II amid Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. As OUN-B leader, Romanov has spoken at rallies organized by the neo-Nazi ‘Svoboda’ party in Ukraine.
Former Port Hedland Shire President Arnold Carter has joined Romanov in calling for McRae’s dismissal, while Western Australia Premier Roger Cook called the councilor’s comments “bizarre,” and encouraged “the people of Port Hedland to express their dissatisfaction with that.”

In an interview with Nine News on Monday, McRae explained that a “chance meeting” in January with Russian ambassador Alexey Pavlovsky had piqued his interest in traveling to Russia to observe the election. Fresh from winning his own local election in Port Hedland, he said that he arrived in Moscow last month with “a few, probably media-driven preconceived notions” about Russia.
“But coming back…their democracy is more transparent and more certainly more professionally run, the logistics and management of their election process leads anything I’ve seen, certainly in the West,” he told the Australian network.
Allegations that McRae and his fellow observers were “being played” by Russian authorities, or that the election itself was unfair are “not only insulting to me,” McRae said, “but I’m sure the Russian people, if they heard that, it would be an absolute slap in the face.”
McRae added that he paid his own way to Russia, and that the trip “had nothing to do with anything Port Hedland council related.”