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Putin welcomes annexation of Ukrainian territories as he celebrates his re-election

Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko Associated Press Greeted with cries of “Russia! Russia!” on Red Square, Vladimir Putin, accompanied on stage by his three presidential opponents, assured that his country would move forward “hand in hand” with the territories conquered from Ukraine.

France Media Agency in Moscow

3:17 p.m.

  • Asia

Vladimir Putin on Monday welcomed the “return to the homeland” of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Moscow, cheered by a crowd gathered on Red Square after his very large re-election as head of Russia after an unopposed presidential election.

Mr. Putin, in power for almost a quarter of a century, received 87.28% of the vote in the poll, which was held from Friday to Sunday, including in regions of Ukraine for which Moscow claimed annexation.

This score was described as “exceptional” by the Kremlin and denounced as “unrelated to reality” by the opposition in exile.

The 71-year-old president appeared in the evening on Red Square, where a concert was taking place celebrating the 10th anniversary of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the first act of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Greeted by the crowd with shouts of “Russia! Russia! », Mr. Putin, accompanied on stage by his three presidential opponents, assured that his country would go “forward, hand in hand” with the territories conquered from Ukraine.

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“The return to the homeland turned out to be more difficult, more tragic, but we succeeded and it is a great event in the history of our state,” said Vladimir Putin in a brief speech before singing the Russian anthem in unison with the crowd, at the foot of the Kremlin walls.

Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 after an intervention by its special forces. In September 2022, it claimed the annexation of four other regions of Ukraine that it partially occupies: those of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east, and those of Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south.

“Foundation of the country”

In the crowd of spectators at this patriotic concert, many Russians expressed their support for Vladimir Putin, after more than two years of military offensive in Ukraine and heavy Western sanctions.

“All citizens who respect our country voted for Putin,” Elena, a 64-year-old economist who lives in Moscow, told AFP.

Ivan Tregoubov, a 30-year-old social worker, believes that “under his leadership the country will only get stronger.” “We expect even greater successes,” he says.

“Vladimir Putin is the foundation of our country. I trust him,” says Victoria, aged 23, who was born when the master of the Kremlin was already in power.

The Kremlin had made the presidential election a tailor-made election intended to demonstrate the “confidence” of Russians in their president: the three other candidates were all on the same line as Mr. Putin, whom he whether Ukraine or the repression that culminated in the death of opposition figure Alexeï Navalny in an Arctic prison in February.

The opposition nevertheless managed to show itself during this presidential election by gathering in polling stations on Sunday at noon, spoiling ballots or invalidating them by writing the name “Navalny”.

This is what his widow, Yulia Navalnaïa, did by voting at the Russian embassy in Berlin. The deceased's team, which accuses the Kremlin of having killed the opponent, judged that the score obtained by Mr. Putin had “no link with reality”.

“Drunk with power”

Russia's partners congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election. The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, assured that this result proved “the full support of the Russians”, while the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raïssi, saw it as a “solid victory”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for strengthening the “special” relationship between the two countries and the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia also welcomed the outcome of the vote.

For their part, Berlin, London, Paris and the head of European diplomacy castigated a vote under duress, without opposition and in full repression.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he saw Mr. Putin as a man “drunk with power” who wants to “rule forever.”

In his victory speech late Sunday evening, Vladimir Putin painted the portrait of a “consolidated” Russia that will not allow itself to be “intimidated” by the West.

As for the front, however, the whole week was marked by deadly bombings and incursions by armed fighters from Ukraine to show Russia that it is not safe on its territory.

In the Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, these attacks have killed at least 15 people since March 12, according to local authorities.

Call not to recognize Putin’s election

Exiled ex-oligarch and Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Monday called on Western governments not to recognize Vladimir Putin's electoral victory, ensuring that the opposition was united against the Russian president.

“It is now a matter of finally publicly recognizing Putin’s illegitimacy,” Mr Khodorkovsky told journalists in Berlin. “We expect a lot from Western society, which we ask to turn to governments to ask them not to recognize the legitimacy of Mr. Putin,” he added during an event organized at the think tank Center for Liberal Modernity.

“When Western heads of state and government shake Mr. Putin's hand, it is a very strong legitimization of Mr. Putin in his country,” he said. added.

A former oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent ten years in prison after opposing Mr. Putin in the early 2000s. Since his release in 2013, he has taken refuge in London from where he finances opposition platforms.

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