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Vladimir Putin Wins Presidential Elections Cementing His Grip With 88% Votes

Russia’s election on Sunday saw President Vladimir Putin win in a historic post-Soviet landslide, solidifying his hold on power despite the fact that thousands of opponents demonstrated at polling places at midday and the US declared the vote to be neither free nor fair.

The outcome is meant to emphasise to the West that its leaders will have to deal with a stronger Russia, whether in war or peace, for many more years to come, according to Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel who first came to power in 1999.

Putin, 71, will undoubtedly win a second six-year term, which would allow him to surpass Josef Stalin and become Russia’s longest-serving leader in more than 200 years, thanks to the early outcome.

According to an exit survey conducted by pollster Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), Putin received 87.8% of the vote, the most percentage of any candidate in Russia’s post-Soviet history. Putin was ranked 87% by the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM). The polls were correct, according to the initial official findings.

“The elections are obviously not free nor fair given how Mr. Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him,” the White House’s National Security Council spokesperson said.

The election takes place a little more than two years after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, which set off the worst European conflict since World War Two. “Special military operation” is how he characterises it.

The three-day election has been clouded by war since Ukraine has been attacking Russian oil refineries, shelling Russian areas, and attempting to breach Russian borders with proxy forces—a move that Putin threatened to punish.

Given his dominance over Russia and the lack of serious opponents, Putin’s reelection appeared certain, but the former KGB operative wanted to demonstrate the enormous support of Russians. When the polls closed at 1800GMT, the national turnout was 74.22%, exceeding the 67.5% recorded in 2018, according to election officials.

Russians were urged to attend a “Noon against Putin” demonstration to express their disapproval of a leader they view as a corrupt despot. Navalny, Putin’s most well-known opponent, passed away in an Arctic prison last month.

The number of Russians who participated in the opposition marches, which were well guarded by tens of thousands of police and security personnel, was not independently calculated. Russia has 114 million voters.

At midday, reporters witnessed long lines of hundreds or perhaps thousands of people at polling places in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg, as voters, particularly younger ones, began to arrive.

Even though there were few obvious indicators that set them apart from other voters, some claimed to be protesting.

Across Asia and Europe, hundreds of people flocked to polling places at Russian diplomatic missions as midday approached. Cheers and cries of “Yulia, Yulia” were heard when Yulia, Navalny’s widow, arrived at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

Exiled Navalny supporters broadcast footage on YouTube of protests inside Russia and abroad.

“We showed ourselves, all of Russia and the whole world that Putin is not Russia that Putin has seized power in Russia,” said Ruslan Shaveddinov of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. “Our victory is that we, the people, defeated fear, we defeated solitude – many people saw they were not alone.”

According to Leonid Volkov, the exiled aide to Navalny who was hit with a hammer in Vilnius last week, hundreds of thousands of people had turned out to vote at polling places in Yekaterinburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities.

At least 74 people were arrested on Sunday across Russia, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors crackdowns on dissent.

Over the previous two days, there were scattered incidents of protest as some Russians set fire to voting booths or poured green dye into ballot boxes. Russian officials called them scumbags and traitors. Opponents posted some pictures of ballots spoiled with slogans insulting Putin.

But Navalny’s death has left the opposition deprived of its most formidable leader, and other major opposition figures are abroad, in jail or dead.

The West casts Putin as an autocrat and a killer. U.S. President Joe Biden last month dubbed him a “crazy SOB”. The International Criminal Court in the Hague has indicted him for the alleged war crime of abducting Ukrainian children, which the Kremlin denies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that Putin wanted to rule forever. “There is no legitimacy in this imitation of elections and there cannot be. This person should be on trial in The Hague. That’s what we have to ensure.”

Putin portrays the war as part of a centuries-old battle with a declining and decadent West that he says humiliated Russia after the Cold War by encroaching on Moscow’s sphere of influence.

“Putin’s task is now to imprint his worldview indelibly into the minds of the Russian political establishment” to ensure a like-minded successor, Nikolas Gvosdev, director of the National Security Program at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, told the Russia Matters project.

“For a U.S. administration that hoped Putin’s Ukraine adventure would be wrapped up by now with a decisive setback to Moscow’s interests, the election is a reminder that Putin expects that there will be many more rounds in the geopolitical boxing ring.”

In what Biden portrays as a conflict between democracies and autocracies in the twenty-first century, Western intelligence leaders believe that Russia’s election is a turning point for both the West and the war in Ukraine.

Ahead of the November presidential election, which will pit Biden against his predecessor Donald Trump, whose Republican party in Congress has obstructed military aid for Kyiv, support for Ukraine is entwined with domestic politics in the United States.

Despite the fact that Kyiv reclaimed land following the invasion in 2022, Russian forces have recently advanced following an unsuccessful Ukrainian counteroffensive last year.

The Biden administration worries that if Kyiv doesn’t receive more assistance soon, Putin may take a larger portion of the country. China may feel emboldened by it, according to CIA Director William Burns.

Putin claims that the West and Ukraine are waging a hybrid war against Russia and are attempting to sabotage the elections.

Elections were also held in four other Ukrainian territories that Moscow partially controls and has claimed since 2022, as well as in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv considers the election held on seized territory to be invalid and unlawful.

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