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Vladimir Putin declared winner of a presidential race that was by no means unsure

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President Vladimir Putin basked in an election victory that was by no means unsure, as officers mentioned on March 18 that he had received his fifth time period with a document variety of votes, underlining the Russian chief’s whole management of the nation’s political system.

After dealing with solely token challengers and harshly suppressing opposition voices, Mr. Putin was set to increase his practically quarter-century rule for six extra years. Even with little margin for protest, Russians crowded outdoors polling stations at midday on Sunday, the final day of the election, apparently heeding an opposition name to precise their displeasure with the president.

Mr. Putin has led Russia as president or prime minister since December 1999, a tenure marked by worldwide army aggression and an rising intolerance for dissent.

Early on March 18, Mr. Putin hailed overwhelming preliminary outcomes as a sign of “trust” and “hope” in him — whereas critics noticed them as one other reflection of the preordained nature of the election.

“Of course, we have lots of tasks ahead. But I want to make it clear for everyone: When we were consolidated, no one has ever managed to frighten us, to suppress our will and our self-conscience. They failed in the past and they will fail in the future,” Mr. Putin mentioned at a gathering along with his marketing campaign employees after polls closed.

Any public criticism of Mr. Putin or his warfare in Ukraine has been stifled. Independent media have been crippled. His fiercest political foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic jail final month, and different critics are both in jail or in exile.

Beyond the truth that voters had nearly no selection, impartial monitoring of the election was extraordinarily restricted.

Russia’s Central Election Commission mentioned Monday that with practically 100% of all precincts counted, Mr. Putin received 87.29% of the vote. Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova mentioned that almost 76 million voters solid their ballots for Mr. Putin, his highest vote tally ever.

North Korean chief Kim Jong Un and the presidents of Bolivia, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela shortly congratulated Putin on his victory, as did the leaders of ex-Soviet nations Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, the West dismissed the vote as a sham.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron wrote on X, previously often called Twitter: “This is not what free and fair elections look like.”

In the tightly managed atmosphere, Navalny’s associates urged these sad with Mr. Putin or the warfare to go to the polls at midday on Sunday — and contours outdoors a variety of polling stations each inside Russia and at its embassies world wide appeared to swell at the moment.

Among these heeding name was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, who spent greater than 5 hours within the line on the Russian Embassy in Berlin. She informed reporters that she wrote her late husband’s title on her poll.

Asked whether or not she had a message for Mr. Putin, Navalnaya replied: “Please stop asking for messages from me or from somebody for Mr. Putin. There could be no negotiations and nothing with Mr. Putin, because he’s a killer, he’s a gangster.”

But Putin disregarded the effectiveness of the obvious protest.

“There were calls to come vote at noon. And this was supposed to be a manifestation of opposition. Well, if there were calls to come vote, then … I praise this,” he said at a news conference after polls closed.

Mr. Putin referenced Navalny by name for the first time ever at the news conference, declaring that he was ready to release him in a swap for unidentified inmates in Western custody just days before the opposition leader’s death.

He rejected Western criticism of the vote and tried to turn the tables at the West, charging that the four criminal cases against Republican candidate Donald Trump were a use of the judiciary for political aims and describing denigrating democracy in the U.S. as a “catastrophe.” “The whole world is laughing at it,” he mentioned.

Some Russians ready to vote in Moscow and St. Petersburg informed The Associated Press that they have been participating within the protest, nevertheless it wasn’t doable to substantiate whether or not all of these in line have been doing so.

A voter in Moscow, who recognized himself solely as Vadim, mentioned he hoped for change, however added that “unfortunately, it’s unlikely.” Like others, he didn’t give his full title due to safety considerations.

Meanwhile, supporters of Navalny streamed to his grave in Moscow, some bringing ballots along with his title written on them.

Meduza, Russia’s greatest impartial information outlet, printed photographs of ballots it acquired from their readers, with “killer” inscribed on one and “The Hague awaits you” on one other. The latter refers to an arrest warrant for Putin on warfare crimes expenses from the International Criminal Court.

Some folks informed the AP that they have been completely happy to vote for Mr. Putin — unsurprising in a rustic the place state TV airs a drumbeat of reward for the Russian chief and voicing some other opinion is dangerous.

Dmitry Sergienko, who solid his poll in Moscow, mentioned, “I am happy with everything and want everything to continue as it is now.”

Voting came about over three days at polling stations throughout the huge nation, in illegally annexed areas of Ukraine and on-line.

Several folks have been arrested, together with in Moscow and St. Petersburg, after they tried to start out fires or set off explosives at polling stations whereas others have been detained for throwing inexperienced antiseptic or ink into poll containers.

Stanislav Andreychuk, co-chair of the Golos impartial election watchdog, mentioned Russians have been searched when coming into polling stations, there have been makes an attempt to verify filled-out ballots earlier than they have been solid, and one report mentioned police demanded a poll field be opened to take away a poll.

That left little room for folks to precise themselves. Still, enormous traces fashioned round midday outdoors diplomatic missions in London, Berlin, Paris and different cities with giant Russian communities, a lot of whom left residence after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“If we have some option to protest I think it’s important to utilize any opportunity,” mentioned 23-year-old Tatiana, who was voting within the Estonian capital of Tallinn and mentioned she got here to participate within the protest.

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