Russians protest Putin rule on final day of presidential election

Russians Rally Against Putin’s Leadership on Presidential Election’s Final Day

On a significant Sunday, thousands of Russians made their way to polling stations in a unified protest, casting their votes against President Vladimir Putin in a synchronized effort.

In the days leading up to his untimely death last month, Alexei Navalny, a prominent figure in the Russian opposition, had thrown his support behind the protest scheduled for noon on the election’s last day. Since Navalny’s death in a Russian prison—a death many Western governments have condemned as an assassination—opposition towards Putin has surged dramatically.

The protest campaign’s message is clear and poignant. “We yearn for the end of these dark times. We desire a future that is transparent and normal,” states the campaign’s website. The message highlights a collective feeling of invisibility and neglect by both the authorities and fellow citizens.

The campaign further emphasizes, “By arriving at the polling stations at NOON on Sunday, March 17, the final voting day, we will make our numbers visible to others and ourselves. We have the potential to become an undeniable force.”

The outcome of the election seems predetermined, with expectations heavily favoring Putin securing another six-year term by a wide margin. Putin, who has alternated roles between prime minister and president, has been at the helm of Russian politics since 1999, standing as the longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin. Completing this term would mark him as the longest ruler since Catherine the Great in 1796.

Running virtually unopposed, Putin’s candidacy faces no significant challenge, with two potential opponents disqualified due to their stance on the Ukraine invasion, and Navalny, who was imprisoned and later died.

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow and now a leading figure in the opposition against Putin, endorsed the protest movement this month. “I am committed to continuing what Alexei believed was right, and I encourage everyone to honor his memory,” she stated in a video message. “Your participation is a personal contribution to our collective effort. Many around you likely share your opposition to Putin and the war.”

The election has been marred by protests and violence, including Ukrainian drone attacks across Russia. On the morning of the election, the Russian defense ministry reported the interception of 35 Ukrainian drones.

In a bold move on Tuesday, a group of Russian citizens opposed to Putin’s regime launched an armed incursion from Ukraine, equipped with tanks and heavy weaponry. The Russian defense ministry reported that the attack was swiftly quelled, with over 230 of the insurgents killed.

The conflict in Ukraine has reached a deadlock, with Ukrainian forces holding their ground despite dwindling supplies. Ukrainian leaders continue to appeal to Congress for increased military aid, facing resistance from some quarters.

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