Russia election: Russians cast ballots on Day 2

Russians Continue to Vote on Second Day of Election Period

On a Saturday in Russia, people went to the polls for the second day of voting in an election expected to extend President Vladimir Putin’s reign for another six years. Putin, who has been in power for almost a quarter of a century, faces no significant opposition after a severe crackdown on dissent. This election unfolds amid a harsh suppression of independent media and key human rights organizations. Tragically, Putin’s most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny, passed away in an Arctic prison in February, with other dissenters either imprisoned or forced into exile.

Putin, at 71, is up against three nominal opponents from parties that are friendly to the Kremlin and have avoided criticizing him or his aggressive actions in Ukraine. He portrays the conflict in Ukraine, now in its third year, as a crucial fight against Western nations determined to weaken Russia. Despite strict oversight, incidents of vandalism at polling stations were reported, including a firebombing and the pouring of green liquid into ballot boxes, a nod to a past attack on Navalny.

In Ekaterinburg, a 50-year-old university professor attempted to throw green liquid into a ballot box and was subsequently jailed for 15 days on charges of “petty hooliganism,” with the possibility of facing more severe charges. Similarly, in the Altai region and near Moscow, individuals were detained for attempting to spoil ballots, facing various charges including “discrediting the Russian army.”

Russian legislators are considering a new law that could impose up to eight years in prison for those found guilty of sabotaging elections. Meanwhile, footage from Krasnodar showed polling station staff stuffing ballot boxes, and Ukrainian drone and missile strikes continued to target deep within Russia. In response to these attacks, regional authorities have taken measures to enhance security, including closing shopping centers and schools.

The war’s impact extends beyond the borders, with a drone attack in Ukraine’s Kherson region resulting in casualties and damage. Despite these challenges, Putin has highlighted recent military successes in Ukraine. He has also promised retaliation for cross-border attacks by Ukrainian forces, which he views as attempts to intimidate Russian citizens and disrupt the electoral process.

The Kremlin is keen on a high voter turnout to demonstrate support for the war and legitimize Putin’s continued leadership. Russia’s defense ministry has played a crucial role in sustaining the economy during the war, producing military supplies and mitigating the economic fallout. Despite international sanctions, Russia’s economy has shown resilience.

Opposition movements have called for a protest vote on the final day of voting, a strategy previously supported by Navalny. Voting is taking place across Russia, including in regions of Ukraine annexed by Russia, and online. Western leaders have criticized the election, questioning its legitimacy due to the absence of genuine opposition and limited independent monitoring. European Council President Charles Michel sarcastically congratulated Putin on his expected victory, highlighting the lack of opposition, freedom, and choice in the election.