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Presidential election tailor-made for Putin, with Ukraine in the background

Russians vote on Sunday for the third and final day of a tailor-made ballot intended for the Russians. &agrav; re-elected Vladimir Putin triumphantly, the opposition having been defeated. Radicalized and the Kremlin presenting national unity as a patriotic duty, in full assault against Ukraine.

The detractors of the Russian president, who has been in charge of the country for 24 years, will nevertheless try to make themselves heard, despite warnings from the authorities, by calling on their supporters to come and vote en masse at noon.

First estimates and the results of a survey by a state institute, Vtsiom, should be known shortly after the closing of the last polling stations at 7:00 p.m. GMT in the 'Kaliningrad enclave.

The outcome of the vote, in which Vladimir Putin, 71, faces three hand-picked and insignificant candidates, is beyond doubt. The opposition has been decimated by years of repression which has further accelerated with the conflict in Ukraine, the backdrop to these elections.

The whole week was marked by deadly strikes and attempted armed incursions from Ukraine into Russian territory.

On Sunday, a sixteen-year-old girl was killed in the town of Belgorod, close to the border and very often targeted, when a strike caused the house where she was staying to burn down, said the Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

A drone attack blamed on Ukraine also caused a refinery fire in southern Russia, with regional authorities reporting of a death after a heart attack.

Mr. Putin swore vengeance on Friday, as these attacks come in response to Russia's daily bombing of Ukraine since February 24, 2022.

The master of the Kremlin, who can count on very real popularity, sees the election as a demonstration of unity of the Russians behind him.

“We must confirm our unity and determination to move forward”, he insisted on Thursday, deeming it “critical not to turn away from the path “, the country being, in his mind, the target of a war hatched by the West.

– The opposition at noon –

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

Presidential election tailor-made for Putin, with Ukraine in the background

Opposition to Vladimir Putin © AFP – Valentin RAKOVSKY, Sabrina BLANCHARD

The main critics of Vladimir Putin are, for their part, dead, in prison or in exile, a repression which culminated with the mysterious death of Alexeï Navalny in a prison in a remote region of the 'Russian Arctic.

If the opponents have no chance of influencing the vote, they nevertheless want to show that they exist, as during Navalny's funeral when crowds paid tribute to him in Moscow.

< p>Youlia Navalnaïa, who promised despite her exile to take up the torch from her late husband, called on her supporters to go to the polls at the same time, at noon on Sunday (09:00 GMT), and give their vote to anyone which candidate other than Putin.

A young resident of Moscow, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, told AFP that he would vote in that hour “just to see positive young faces around me” and see “the light in this dark tunnel”.

Presidential election tailor-made for Putin, with Ukraine in the background

A member of the electoral commission near a poster presenting the candidates for the Russian presidential election at a polling station in Sergiyev Posad, March 16, 2024 © AFP – Alexander NEMENOV

Authorities in the capital have warned against any form of protest. The young man interviewed by AFP, however, said he was calm, because the action in which he will participate “does not violate any law”.

The first days of voting went off without a hitch, apart from a few isolated incidents: paint poured into ballot boxes, attempted fires… But the precise reasons for these acts were not revealed. Several of their perpetrators were imprisoned.

– Incursions and drones –

Presidential election tailor-made for Putin, with Ukraine in the background

With regard to Ukraine, while the conflict has probably cost the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, Moscow strives to present with triumphalism recent conquests, however important limited, and to insist that Russia is gambling for its survival against the West.

All week, the Russian army also said it was repelling attempted armed incursions from neighboring Ukraine in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, assaults claimed by anti-Putin units claiming to be composed of Russians.

On Saturday again, one of these groups, “Russia's Freedom Legion”, called on civilians to evacuate the city of Belgorod: “you do not have to be Putin's human shields”.

Several people have died in these regions in recent days in addition to drone, rocket and artillery attacks, even if Russian anti-aircraft defense seems able to shoot down most of the projectiles.

The Russian army said on Sunday that it had destroyed 35 Ukrainian drones flying over several regions of Russia, including Moscow, during the night, a particularly high number.

Presidential election tailor-made for Putin, with Ukraine in the background

A woman votes at her home for the presidential election in Russia, in Sergiyev Posad, 75 kilometers from Moscow, March 16, 2024 © AFP – Alexander NEMENOV

An official of the occupation in southern Ukraine, Vladimir Rogov, also accused the Kiev army of attacking a polling station in the Zaporizhia region using drones, causing a fire but causing no casualties.

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

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

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