Vladimir Putin extends rule after Russian vote with no real opposition

Moscow, Russia - Following a presidential election accompanied by allegations of manipulation, Russia's Election Commission has awarded Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin a record-breaking result of just under 88% of the votes.

Vladimir Putin earned just under 88% of the vote in an election with no genuine opposition.
Vladimir Putin earned just under 88% of the vote in an election with no genuine opposition.  © Mikhail Metzel / POOL / AFP

Chair of the commission, Ella Pamfilova, announced this on Sunday evening after counting nearly a quarter of the ballots.

Russian state television declared Putin (71) the winner on Sunday on the basis of several voter surveys. Forecasts after polling stations closed on Sunday spoke of 87%, state media reported Sunday.

The 88% being posited would be a record for Putin, who received 76.7% of the vote in the last presidential election in 2018.

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No genuine opposition candidates were allowed to stand in the three-day vote.

International observers did not monitor the election across the vast country, which reaches across 11 time zones. The vote was accompanied by numerous protests by thousands of his opponents.

The first meaningful results should be available on Monday. In past elections, the forecasts have been in line with the final result.

Despite attempts at intimidation by the authorities, voting on Sunday was marked in part by anti-Putin protesters, who turned out to voting locations at exactly noon as a sign of opposition to the Kremlin strongman, who has dominated Russian politics for almost a quarter of a century.

On Sunday afternoon, the electoral commission put turnout at above 70% of the electorate of 114 million. This would represent a record. However, independent observers pointed to systematic fraud behind this high figure.

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Vladimir Putin's victory will extend his rule through 2030.
Vladimir Putin's victory will extend his rule through 2030.  © STRINGER / AFP

In Berlin, Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late opposition figure Alexei Navalny, entered the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden Sunday to cast her vote.

"Of course I wrote Navalny" on the ballot paper, she told supporters when she left the building a few minutes later.

According to the police, around 2,000 voters and 500 to 800 demonstrators gathered at the Russian mission on the last day of the election.

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In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "this election fraud has no legitimacy and cannot have any."

"This figure [Putin] must end up in the dock in The Hague – we must see to that, everyone in the world who values life and decency," Zelensky said in his evening video address on Sunday.

"Putin has faked another election these days," he added.

"Everyone in the world realizes that this figure, as so often in history, is simply obsessed with power and will do anything to rule for life," Zelensky charged. "There is no evil he would not commit in order to prolong his personal power."

Electoral law experts in Russia and abroad have said the conditions for the vote are neither free nor fair: The opposition is excluded, and the three authorized opposing candidates are considered loyal to the Kremlin.

Leading opposition politicians were removed from the ballot, have been driven into exile abroad, or are imprisoned in Russia.

Anti-Putin protestors arrested by Russian authorities

Anti-Putin protests rallied against the sham election on Sunday, with supporters of the late Alexei Navalny putting on a powerful display.
Anti-Putin protests rallied against the sham election on Sunday, with supporters of the late Alexei Navalny putting on a powerful display.  © Roberto SCHMIDT / AFP

The Kremlin organized the election in such a way as to demonstrate the population's supposedly high level of trust in Putin and support for his war against Ukraine.

Police in Russia arrested dozens of people who joined the midday protests, with the OVD-Info human rights media project counting around 70 arrests, most of them in Kazan, a city on the Volga River some 400 miles east of Moscow.

Arrests were also reported in Moscow and St Petersburg. Russian authorities had warned against joining the campaign, which they say would show "signs of extremist activity."

Backers of the "Noon against Putin" protest include supporters of Alexei Navalny, The opposition figure, who survived a poisoning attack in 2020, died in a penal colony in the Polar Circle last month.

Opposition politician Boris Nadezhdin, who was barred from challenging Putin, was received with applause from students as he entered the Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology, which also served as a polling station.

"I think you will still have the opportunity to vote for me," he said.

Navalny's supporters gathered at his grave in the south-east of Moscow Sunday to lay flowers on the final day of the elections.

The circumstances of his death remain unclear, with many Putin critics and Western countries blaming the Kremlin.

Another Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who lives in exile in Britain, also joined the protest in Berlin. Anti-Putin Russian activists living abroad staged further demonstrations around the world.

Within Russia, numerous reports show that pressure is being exerted on citizens to take part in the election.

Internationally, the fact that the sham election is also being held in the occupied Ukrainian territories has been particularly criticized. Russia has annexed these territories in violation of international law.

Cover photo: STRINGER / AFP

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