Remote Russian regions cast early votes in presidential election

Russia - Early voting for Russia's presidential election began Sunday in the country's most remote regions, with officials sending helicopters and snowmobiles to far-flung areas to collect the votes of reindeer herdsmen and others in a ballot certain to extend Vladimir Putin's long rule.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to handily win another term in power as early voting begins.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to handily win another term in power as early voting begins.  © Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

The election – which takes place for the rest of Russia mid-March – is being held amid a ban on criticism of Moscow's two-year Ukraine offensive and after opposition figure Alexei Navalny died in prison.

Russia has also organized early voting in occupied Ukraine, in what has been slammed as a sham.

The vote is being held without any real opposition candidates on the ballot.

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Russia's Election Commission said its officials used "helicopters, all terrain vehicles and other off-road vehicles" to get to remote areas in Siberia to stage pop-up voting stations for handfuls of voters.

In the Far Eastern Khabarovsk region, officials traveled by helicopter to the remote Kur weather station to collect votes from its two workers.

While Putin has not allowed real competition during elections, securing a high turnout matters to the Kremlin, which has said repeatedly that Russian society is united behind Putin and the offensive against Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in power since December 31, 1999.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in power since December 31, 1999.  © Alexander KAZAKOV / POOL / AFP

In the Sakha republic in the Siberian Arctic, election officials said they rode five hours in off-terrain vehicles to reach a remote tribal community on the Bolshoy Begichev island in the Laptev Sea.

"The head of the family was happy to see the guests," they said on social media. "A total of four voters voted."

They posted photographs of hundreds of reindeers in the snow.

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In Moscow-occupied Ukraine, Russian-installed officials said soldiers also began voting in the election.

The Kremlin-appointed head of the Moscow-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region posted a photograph on social media of soldiers inside a makeshift polling station covered in camouflage.

The election commission has blocked all genuine opposition candidates from standing in a contest that is certain to prolong Putin's rule until 2030.

Putin has been in power since December 31, 1999.

Cover photo: Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

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