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Putin leads Russia election with 88% of vote, show early results – Times of India

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MOSCOW: Russian officials released early returns Sunday showing President Vladimir Putin has nearly 88% of the vote in an election where he stifled the opposition. The vote, which holds little suspense, is taking place against the backdrop of the harshest crackdown on political opposition and freedom of speech in Russia since Soviet times. Only three token candidates — and no one who opposes his war in Ukraine — were allowed to run against him as he sought a fifth term. Russia’s Central Election Commission says Putin has 87.9% of the vote with 24.4% of the precincts counted.
The early result means Putin, who came to power in 1999, looks to have easily won a fifth six-year term that would enable him to overtake Josef Stalin and become Russia’s longest-serving leader for more than 200 years. The election comes just over two years since Putin triggered the deadliest European conflict since WWII by ordering the invasion of Ukraine.
War has hung over the three day election: Ukraine has repeatedly attacked oil refineries in Russia, shelled Russian regions and sought to pierce Russian borders with proxy forces – a move Putin said would not be left unpunished.
While Putin’s re-election is not in doubt given his control over Russia and the absence of any real challengers, the former KGB spy wanted to show that he has the overwhelming support of Russians. Several hours before polls closed at 1800 GMT, the nationwide turnout surpassed 2018 levels of 67.5%.
Supporters of Putin’s most prominent opponent Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last month, had called on Russians to come out at a “Noon against Putin” protest to show their dissent against a leader they cast as a corrupt autocrat. Lines outside a number of polling stations both inside Russia and at its embassies around the world appeared to swell at that time. Among those heeding call was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, who joined a long line at the Russian embassy in Berlin as some in the crowd applauded and chanted her name. She spent more than five hours in the line and told reporters after casting her vote that she wrote her late husband’s name on the ballot.
Some Russians waiting to vote in Moscow and St. Petersburg told AP that they were taking part in the protest, but it wasn’t possible to confirm whether all of those pictured in line were doing so. Independent Russian media posted images of spoiled ballots posted by voters, with “killer and thief” inscribed on one, and “waiting for you in The Hague” written on another, in a reference to an arrest warrant issued for Putin on war crimes. Still, some people said that they were happy to vote for Putin. Dmitry Sergienko, in Moscow, said, “I’m happy and want everything to continue as it is now.”
Voting took place over three days at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine and online. While polls closed Sunday night in Russia, voting continued at some embassies around the world. Despite tight controls, several dozen cases of vandalism at polling stations were reported across the voting period.
Several people were arrested, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg, after they tried to start fires or set off explosives at polling stations while others were detained for throwing green antiseptic or ink into ballot boxes. The OVD-Info group that monitors political arrests said 80 people were arrested in 20 cities on Sunday.





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