With New Six-Year Term, Putin Cements Hold on Russian Leadership

With New Six-Year Term, Putin Cements Hold on Russian Leadership

President Vladimir V. Putin on Sunday prolonged his rule over Russia till 2030, utilizing a closely stage-managed presidential election with no actual competitors to painting overwhelming public assist for his home dominance and his invasion of Ukraine.

Some Russians tried to show the undemocratic vote right into a protest, forming lengthy traces at polling stations at a predetermined time — midday — to register their discontent. At the identical time, Ukraine sought to forged its personal vote of kinds by firing a volley of exploding drones at Moscow and different targets.

But the Kremlin brushed these challenges apart and launched outcomes after the polls closed claiming that Mr. Putin had received 87 % of the vote — an excellent increased quantity than within the 4 earlier elections he participated in.

Afterward, Mr. Putin took a prolonged, televised victory lap, together with a swaggering, after-midnight information convention at which he commented on the dying of the imprisoned opposition chief Aleksei A. Navalny for the primary time, referring to it as an “unlucky incident.”

Mr. Putin is now set to make use of his new six-year time period to additional cement his management of Russian politics and to press on with the warfare in Ukraine. If he sees the time period by means of to its finish, he’ll grow to be the longest-serving Russian chief since Catherine the Great within the 1700s.

Western governments have been fast to sentence the election as undemocratic. Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for President Biden’s National Security Council, stated “the elections have been clearly not free nor truthful.”

But as Mr. Putin prepares to imagine a fifth time period as president, he seems as emboldened as ever, deepening his confrontation with the West and displaying a willingness to maintain escalating tensions. Asked on the information convention whether or not he believed {that a} full-scale battle between Russia and NATO was doable, Mr. Putin responded: “I believe that something is feasible in immediately’s world.”

Despite the condemnation from the West, the Kremlin views these elections as a ritual essential to Mr. Putin’s portrayal of himself as a genuinely fashionable chief. Analysts now count on him to raise hard-line supporters of the warfare inside the Russian authorities, betting that Western assist for Ukraine will ultimately crumble and Ukraine’s authorities pressured to barter a peace deal on Russia’s phrases.

Asked about his priorities for his subsequent time period, Mr. Putin started by referring to his invasion of Ukraine. “We want to hold out the duties within the context of the particular army operation,” he stated. The outcomes, he stated, have helped “consolidate society” round his management, a chorus additionally repeated on state tv.

The extent of the Russian public’s true assist for Mr. Putin within the election was onerous to judge, on condition that opposition candidates have been barred from operating and that ballot-stuffing and different instances of fraud have been frequent occurrences in previous Russian elections. This was additionally the least clear election in current Russian historical past, with the work of unbiased ballot observers lowered to ranges not seen for the reason that collapse of the Soviet Union.

More than 5 million votes have been reported to have come from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, the place individuals have been at occasions directed to forged their votes underneath the watch of armed Russian troopers; in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk area, Mr. Putin was reported to have acquired 95 % of the vote.

In the final presidential election, in 2018, Mr. Putin’s official end result was 78 % of the vote — some 10 factors decrease than this weekend.

Grigorii Golosov, a political scientist in St. Petersburg, stated in a telephone interview that he was shocked by the excessive share of the vote the Kremlin claimed, describing it as “attribute of extraordinarily closed autocracies.”

“They can declare any outcomes they need, on condition that the method shouldn’t be clear,” Mr. Golosov stated. “All that these outcomes converse to is the diploma of management over the electoral system, the election course of, that the Russian authorities have attained.”

For the primary time in a Russian presidential election, the vote lasted for 3 days, from Friday to Sunday — an prolonged interval that made it simpler for the Kremlin to drive up turnout, and more durable for anybody to identify fraud.

Ever since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian authorities have mounted a marketing campaign of repression unseen since Soviet occasions, successfully criminalizing any type of antiwar speech.

And some voters interviewed in Moscow stated they have been proud to have voted for Mr. Putin, repeating a story that could be a staple of Russian state tv. The president, they stated, had turned Russia right into a affluent, revered world energy that has been pressured into army battle with a Western-armed Ukraine.

“I’m pleased with my nation and my president,” Irina, 59, stated close to a polling station on central Moscow’s Kutuzovsky Avenue, declining to present her final identify when chatting with a Western reporter. “He elevated us globally to the extent that he received’t let anybody offend us.”

Ukraine repeatedly tried to undermine Mr. Putin’s picture as a pacesetter defending Russia by launching assaults all through the voting interval.

On Sunday, Russian officers stated that Ukraine had focused seven areas of the nation with exploding drones, and the Russian army stated it had shot down 35 of them. An oil refinery was set on hearth within the Krasnodar area of southern Russia and air protection forces shot down two drones flying towards Moscow, Russian officers stated.

But there was little proof that the assaults — which have been largely ignored by state media — had succeeded in puncturing Mr. Putin’s aura amongst his supporters.

Pyotr, 41, a advertising and marketing specialist in Moscow, expressed satisfaction that Mr. Putin might outwit and outlast Western adversaries. “Against the background of those under-presidents, the Macrons and so forth,” he stated, referring to President Emmanuel Macron of France, Mr. Putin “seems to be like such a celestial being.”

The different three candidates on the presidential poll have been all members of the State Duma, Russia’s rubber-stamp Parliament, and had voted for the warfare in Ukraine, for elevated censorship and for legal guidelines curbing homosexual rights.

With Mr. Putin’s best-known critics in jail or in exile, one little-known opponent of the warfare, Boris B. Nadezhdin, did handle to gather tens of hundreds of signatures in an try to get on the poll. But the federal government invalidated sufficient of the signatures final month to bar him, citing what it referred to as “irregularities.”

Still, Russia’s embattled and largely exiled opposition managed to make use of the elections to mount an uncommon protest: Putin opponents have been inspired to line up at their polling station at midday native time on Sunday. While it was onerous to judge what number of voters selected that point to specific their discontent, one polling station close to Moscow’s famed Tretyakov Gallery was comparatively quiet earlier than an extended line shaped instantly at midday.

“This is our protest — we don’t have some other choices,” stated Lena, 61, who got here to a polling station in central Moscow earlier than midday intending, she stated, to spoil her poll. “All of us respectable individuals are hostages right here.”

Like different voters interviewed, she declined to supply her final identify, for concern of reprisal.

The noontime traces have been even longer in cities with giant Russian diasporas — like Belgrade, Serbia, and Yerevan, Armenia — the place the Russian Embassy served as a polling station. By 1 p.m. in Berlin, the road to vote snaked for roughly a mile by means of the town streets, ending simply previous the spot the place an indication marked the placement of Hitler’s World War II bunker.

Yulia Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s widow, waited within the line for roughly six hours, making one among her first public appearances since declaring that she would keep on her husband’s political work after he died final month. She stated after leaving the Russian Embassy that she had written “Navalny” on her poll.

Ms. Navalnaya hugged and took pictures with supporters who approached her, a few of them in tears.

Yulia Lozovskaya, 29, who moved to Germany from St. Petersburg after Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, stated she had sought out Ms. Navalnaya after studying from social media that she was standing someplace within the line.

“You really feel you’re not alone,” Ms. Lozovskaya stated, referring to the dimensions of the gang. “And that offers monumental energy.”

Reporting was contributed by Alina Lobzina, Valerie Hopkins, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Milana Mazaeva.



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