Spread the love

A tailor-made presidential election for Putin, with Ukraine and Navalny in the background

Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky Associated Press A woman cast her ballot at a polling station in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

France Media Agency in Moscow

March 17, 2024

  • Europe

Russians vote on Sunday on the last day of a poll intended to celebrate the triumph of Vladimir Putin, despite the repression, the death of opponent Alexeï Navalny and the assault on Ukraine which constitute the backdrop to the election .

The detractors of the Russian president, who has been in charge of the country for 24 years, wanted to show off by going to vote at the same time, at noon on Sunday.

In Moscow, in places, large crowds were visible, AFP journalists noted.

“I came to show that there are many of us, that we exist, that we are not a marginal minority,” Artiom Minassian, a 19-year-old student, told AFP.< /p>

In the Moscow district of Marino, in front of the office where Alexei Navalny was voting, a few dozen voters responded to the call.

“I was able to meet a few people, talk to them, and I felt that they thought the same thing as me. I am not alone,” said Olga, 52, before leaving with her son to pay her respects at the tomb of the opponent, buried in the neighborhood.

In the cemetery, dozens of people marched, placing fresh flowers on the grave as well as bulletins to which Navalny's name was added.

A word recalls a quote that the opponent appreciated: “To triumph, evil only needs the inaction of good people.”

Overall, the mobilization of the opposition took place calmly, but the NGO OVD-Info, specializing in monitoring repression, reported at least 74 arrests in Russia for various forms of electoral protests.

Also read

  • Fear hovers over the Suwałki corridor, NATO’s Achilles heel
  • The relentless electoral mechanics of Vladimir Putin
  • From prison, Navalny corresponded with Soviet dissident Sharansky

Navalnaïa in Berlin

In front of Russian embassies around the world, queues formed at the appointed time. The crowds were there particularly in Paris and Berlin, while tens of thousands of Russians have gone into exile due to repression and military mobilization since the start of the Russian assault against Ukraine.< /p>

Yulia Navalnaïa, the wife of the deceased who launched the call to vote at midday, was in line at the start of the afternoon in the German capital. Around her, some held signs: “No Putin, No War”, “Russia without Putin” or even “Putin is a killer”.

A tailor-made presidential election for Putin, with Ukraine and Navalny in the background

Photo: Tobias Schwarz Agence France-Presse Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, kisses a woman as she arrives at a rally in Berlin, where voters lined up to cast their ballots in Russia's presidential election.

Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s former close aide, thanked those who came: “The world saw you. Russia is not Putin, Russia is you,” he wrote on X.

These protests will not, however, affect the very predictable outcome of the vote. Initial estimates and the results of a survey by a state institute, Vtsiom, should be known shortly after the last polling stations close at 6 p.m. in the Kaliningrad enclave.

President Putin, aged 71, faces three hand-picked and insignificant candidates. The opposition has been decimated by years of repression that accelerated further with the conflict in Ukraine and culminated in the mysterious death of Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison in February.

On the military level, this election week was marked by deadly strikes and attempted armed incursions from Ukraine into Russian territory, responses to the daily bombings and assaults by Kremlin forces in its neighbor for more than two years.

On Sunday morning, a 16-year-old girl was killed in an air attack on the town of Belgorod, close to the border and very often targeted. In the afternoon another person died and 11 others were injured in the same region.

A drone strike blamed on Ukraine also caused a refinery fire in southern Russia.

Despite these attacks, a prolonged deadly conflict and increasingly restricted freedoms, the master of the Kremlin can count on very real popularity and wants to make the presidential election a demonstration of the country's unity.

Putin advocates unity

“We must confirm our unity,” he insisted on Thursday, the country being, in his mind, the target of a war hatched by the West.

A vision shared by many of his compatriots. “The actions that the West inflicts on us only further unite the Russian people,” swears Lyubov Piankova, a 70-year-old retiree from Saint Petersburg, the head of state’s hometown, to AFP.

And by mid-afternoon in Moscow, turnout stood at 70.81%, a record according to official figures.

Regarding Ukraine, while the conflict has probably cost the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, the Kremlin strives to triumphantly present recent conquests, although limited in scale.

All week, the Russian army also had to repel attempted armed incursions from Ukraine, assaults claimed by anti-Putin units claiming to be composed of Russians and aiming to disrupt the vote .

A group, the “Siberian Battalion” claimed on Sunday morning to have entered the Russian hamlet of Gorkovsky.

Moscow, for its part, continues its bombing of Ukraine. A strike killed 21 people in Odessa on Friday.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116