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In Russia, attacks from Ukraine are increasing before the presidential election

Photo: Olga Maltseva Agence France-Presse Russians walk past a poster of President Putin in St. Petersburg

France Media Agency in Moscow

7:23 p.m.

  • Europe

New ground attacks and waves of drones targeted Russia on Thursday, killing at least two people, a few hours before the opening of polling stations for the presidential election.

Vladimir Putin, for his part, ordered his compatriots not to “deviate from the path” during the vote, a thinly veiled allusion to his own candidacy.

Armed ground incursions and air raids have increased in recent days in Russia, sometimes far from the border, and come as Russians are called to the polls from Friday to Sunday for an election destined to triumphantly reappoint Mr. Putin due to lack of opposition.

The Russian National Guard said in the middle of the day on Thursday that it was repelling with the army and border guards the assault of a group of “saboteurs” near the town of Tiotkino, in the region of Kursk, bordering Ukraine.

Attacks against this village carried out by units from Ukraine and claiming to be composed of Russians opposed to the Kremlin had already taken place on Tuesday. Moscow then assured that the attackers had been decimated.

The “Freedom for Russia Legion,” one of the groups behind previous armed ground incursions, on Thursday called for the evacuation of civilians from the area and vowed to “liberate Russian regions » of Belgorod — also bordering Ukraine — and Kursk.

A representative of this group, Alexei Baranovsky, told Ukrainian television that “intense fighting” continued and was concentrated not only around Tiotkino, but also around Graivoron, in the Belgorod region.

The Russian military released an undated video on Thursday purporting to show the destruction of forces attempting to infiltrate Belgorod Oblast.

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“Hard Times”

At the same time, drone attacks are increasing in the Russian border regions, but also hundreds of kilometers from the front, Kiev having promised retaliation for the bombings that Ukraine has been suffering for more than two years.

The Belgorod oblast and its capital of the same name are particularly targeted. On Thursday, 2 civilians died and at least 19 others were injured, its governor said, after three drone attacks during the day.

Regional authorities have announced that they will temporarily close shopping centers to prevent new victims.

In this tense context, Vladimir Putin, in power for 24 years, judged on Thursday that we should not “turn away from the path”, but vote in the presidential election to express a “patriotic” position.

The outgoing head of state will face three candidates without scope, who oppose neither the offensive in Ukraine, nor the repression which eradicated all opposition and which culminated with the death in prison in mid-February of the main critic of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny.

Mr. Putin, who presents the conflict as a war against the West in which Russia is at stake for its survival, spoke of the “difficult times” that the Russians are experiencing, without detailing them.

Call from Yulia Navalnaïa

On the front, Mr. Putin presents recent conquests, particularly the capture of the town of Avdiïvka in February, as proof that his military campaign is on the right track despite significant losses.

Russian forces are advancing step by step in eastern Ukraine, notably due to the running out of Western aid to Ukraine.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg estimated Thursday that the countries of the Atlantic Alliance were not giving “enough ammunition” to Kiev and that this had “consequences every day on the battlefield.”

Furthermore, for him, “the election in Russia will be neither free nor fair”. Ukrainian diplomacy, for its part, called on the international community to reject the result of this election, which it describes as a “farce”.

The presidential election, which extends over three days, begins with the opening of polling stations in the Far East at 8 a.m. local time on Friday (4 p.m. in Montreal on Thursday) and will end with the closure of those in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic, Sunday at 2 p.m. (Montreal time).

The Kremlin's detractors, for their part, will not be able to make themselves heard. The only real opponent to have tried to run, Boris Nadejdine, saw his candidacy rejected.

Alexeï Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaïa, who vowed to continue her fight, therefore called on Russians to protest by voting for any of the candidates except Putin.

In response to this call, the Moscow Prosecutor's Office warned Russians on Thursday against any protests during the vote, which would be “punishable under current legislation”.

The election of Vladimir Putin is beyond doubt, with the vote expected to allow him to remain in power until 2030. Following a constitutional revision, he will be able to run again and remain in power until 2036, the year he turns 84.

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