Russian elections: Putin declared winner of a race that was never in doubt

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By journalsofus.com


President Vladimir Putin extended his reign over Russia in a landslide election whose outcome was never in doubt, declaring on Monday his determination to move forward deeper into Ukraine and new threats in the air against the West.

After the harshest crackdown on dissent since Soviet times, it was clear from the first results that Putin’s government government of almost a quarter of a century He would continue with a fifth term that gives him six more years. Still, Russians heeded a call to protest Putin’s repression and his war in Ukraine by showing up at polling stations at noon on Sunday.

More than 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024

With all districts counted on Monday, election officials said Putin had won a record number of votes, underscoring his complete control over the political system. The United States and other Western leaders denounced the election as a sham.

The election was “neither free nor fair in any sense,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Before the elections, Putin’s biggest political enemy, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic penal colony, pacifist candidates were excluded from the polls, and independent voices were silenced in a Kremlin-backed media blockade. No independent monitoring organization was able to observe the election and analysts said online polls meant the vote was highly susceptible to manipulation. Any public criticism of Putin or their war in Ukraine has been put down.

Putin appeared on Red Square in the heart of Moscow on Monday night at a concert to mark the 10th year since he annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Putin’s three symbolic rivals for the presidency appeared on stage alongside him and publicly supported him after campaigns in which none of them criticized him.

Putin has led Russia as president or prime minister since December 1999. At the end of his fifth term, he would be the longest-serving Russian leader since Catherine the Great, who ruled during the 18th century.

Emboldened by his sweeping victory, Putin said he planned to forge a buffer zone in Ukraine to protect Russia from cross-border bombings and attacks. When asked if an open clash between Russia and NATO could break out, Putin responded dryly, saying: “Everything is possible in today’s world,” adding: “It is clear to everyone that it will put us one step away from a Third War.” World on a large scale. “

Russian officials said they recruited more than 500,000 volunteers for the army last year, but many expect Putin to mobilize more forces to try to advance deeper into Ukraine. Analysts say that in the post-election period, Russian authorities could introduce unpopular measures, such as tax increases.

The Kremlin, Gould-Davies said, is now “increasingly confident,” adding that Russian officials have “learned how passive the population is and how effective their own repression is.”

Russia’s Central Election Commission said Monday that with all electoral districts counted, Putin won 87% of the vote. The head of the Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said that almost 76 million voters voted for Putin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized elections and voting in regions of his country that Russia has illegally annexed, saying that “everything Russia does in the occupied territory of Ukraine is a crime.”

In the United States, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said it was “certainly an undemocratic process.”

Germany also harshly criticized the vote. “Russia, as the Chancellor has already said, is now a dictatorship and is governed by Vladimir Putin in an authoritarian manner,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokeswoman, Christina Hoffmann.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Putin, as did North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the presidents of nations with historical and current ties to Russia, such as Azerbaijan and Belarus.

Navalny’s associates urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to go to the polls at noon on Sunday, and queues outside several polling stations both inside Russia and at its embassies around the world appeared to increase at the time.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who spent more than five hours in line at the Russian embassy in Berlin, told reporters that she wrote her late husband’s name on her ballot.

When asked if she had a message for Putin, Navalnaya responded: “Please stop asking for messages from me or anyone for Mr. Putin. There could be no negotiations or anything with Mr. Putin, because he is a murderer, he is a gangster.”

Putin referred Navalny by name for the first time in years at the press conference, stating that he had been willing to free him in an exchange for unidentified prisoners in Western custody just days before the opposition leader’s death.

Navalny’s supporters flocked to his grave in Moscow and some carried ballots with his name written on them.

The Russian leader downplayed the effectiveness of the apparent protest and rejected Western criticism of the vote. Instead, he tried to turn the tables on the West, charging that the four criminal cases against former President Donald Trump were a use of the judiciary for political purposes.

“The whole world is laughing at this,” he said.

Some people told the AP they were happy to vote for Putin, which is not surprising in a country where state television broadcasts a Praise for the Russian leader and expressing any other opinion is risky.

Dmitry Sergienko, who cast his vote in Moscow, said: “I am happy with everything and I want everything to continue as it is now.”

Voting took place over three days at polling stations across the vast country, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine and online.

Several people were arrested, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg, after they tried to start fires or detonate explosives at polling stations, while some others were detained for throwing green antiseptic or ink into ballot boxes. Many more were detained by police for attempting to protest.

The OVD-Info group that monitors political arrests said that about 90 people were arrested in 22 cities in Russia on Sunday.

An activist from the Russian Liberties association waves the opposition flag while protesting against President Vladimir Putin in Trocadero Square, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sunday, March 17, 2024. Russians at home and abroad They head to the polls for a presidential election that is almost certain to extend President Vladimir Putin's rule after he cracked down on dissent.  (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

An activist from the Russian Liberties association waves the opposition flag while protesting against President Vladimir Putin in Trocadero Square, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sunday, March 17, 2024. Russians at home and abroad They head to the polls for a presidential election that is almost certain to extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule after he cracked down on dissent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits his campaign headquarters after the presidential election in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits his campaign headquarters after the presidential election in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Stanislav Andreychuk, co-chairman of Golos’s independent election watchdog, said Russians were searched as they entered polling stations, there were attempts to check completed ballots before they were cast and one report said police demanded a ballot be opened. ballot box to cast a vote.

Around noon, huge lines formed outside diplomatic missions in London, Berlin, Paris and other cities with large Russian communities, many of whom fled their homes after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

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This story has been updated to correct that Putin referred to Navalny by name for the first time in years in his comments after polls closed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian elections: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-election



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