Putin celebrates easy presidential election win with rare reference to Navalny

Moscow, Russia - Vladimir Putin said Russia would not be "intimidated" as he hailed an election victory that paves the way for him to become the longest-serving Russian leader in more than 200 years.

Vladimir Putin delivered a victory speech Monday after securing an easy win in a virtually uncontested presidential election.
Vladimir Putin delivered a victory speech Monday after securing an easy win in a virtually uncontested presidential election.  © NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / POOL / AFP

Every one of the 71-year-old's major opponents are dead, in prison, or exiled, and he has overseen an unrelenting crackdown on anybody who publicly opposes his rule or his military offensive in Ukraine.

"I want to thank all of you and all citizens of the country for your support and this trust," Putin told a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Moscow early Monday, hours after polls closed.

"No matter who or how much they want to intimidate us, no matter who or how much they want to suppress us, our will, our consciousness – no one has ever succeeded in anything like this in history. It has not worked now and will not work in the future. Never," he added.

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With more than 99% of voting stations having submitted results, Putin had secured 87% of all votes cast, official election data showed, according to state news agency RIA.

It is a record victory in a presidential election where he faced no genuine competition.

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Putin will become the longest-serving Russian leader in over 200 years if he completes his latest six-year term.
Putin will become the longest-serving Russian leader in over 200 years if he completes his latest six-year term.  © Mikhail Metzel / POOL / AFP

The three-day election was marked by a surge in deadly Ukrainian bombardments, incursions into Russian territory by pro-Kyiv sabotage groups and vandalism at polling stations.

Putin singled out Russian troops fighting in Ukraine for special thanks in his post-election speech in Moscow.

And he was unrelenting in claiming his forces had a major advantage on the battlefield, even after a week that saw Ukraine mount some of its most significant aerial attacks on Russia and in which pro-Ukrainian militias launched armed raids on Russian border villages.

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"The initiative belongs entirely to the Russian armed forces. In some areas, our guys are just mowing them – the enemy – down," he said, refusing to rule out a full-scale conflict with NATO countries.

Kyiv and its allies slammed the vote as a sham. President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Putin as a "dictator" who was "drunk from power."

"There is no evil he will not commit to prolong his personal power," Zelensky said.

If he completes another full Kremlin term, Putin will have stayed in power longer than any Russian leader since Catherine the Great in the 18th century.

Putin addresses Navalny's death for first time

Russians gathered at the grave of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison in February.
Russians gathered at the grave of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison in February.  © NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

Allies of the late Alexei Navalny – Putin's most prominent rival, who died in an Arctic prison last month – had tried to spoil his inevitable victory, urging voters to flood polling stations at noon and spoil their ballots.

His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was greeted by supporters with flowers and applause in Berlin. After voting at the Russian embassy, she said she had written her late husband's name on her ballot.

But Putin said the protest had had no impact and that those who spoiled their ballots would "have to be dealt with".

In his first public comments on Navalny's death last month, Putin called his passing a "sad event".

Using his name in public for the first time in years during a news conference, Putin said: "As for Mr. Navalny. Yes, he passed away. This is always a sad event."

He also revealed a colleague had proposed swapping Navalny several days before he died for "some people" currently held in prisons in Western countries.

"The person who was talking to me hadn't finished his sentence and I said 'I agree'".

The OVD-Info police monitoring group announced that at least 80 people had been detained across nearly 20 cities in Russia for protest actions linked to the elections.

Cover photo: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / POOL / AFP

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