Putin wins landslide re-election to extend 25-year rule in vote criticized as a sham by protesters

Putin Secures Overwhelming Victory in Disputed Election, Extending His 25-Year Reign Amid Protests

In Moscow, on March 17th, President Vladimir Putin achieved a remarkable victory in Russia’s presidential election, securing 88% of the votes according to exit polls and early results. This victory further strengthens his hold on power. Despite this, thousands of his opponents made their voices heard through a symbolic protest at noon across various polling stations.

Putin, who first rose to power in 1999, has now seemingly secured another six-year term. This win positions him to surpass Josef Stalin, making him the longest-serving leader in Russia in over two centuries.

An exit poll conducted by FOM revealed that Putin received 87.8% of the vote, marking the highest result in the post-Soviet era of Russia. The Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM) reported a slightly lower figure of 87%. The initial official results confirmed the accuracy of these polls.

The election took place against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which Putin refers to as a “special military operation.” This conflict, initiated by Putin’s order over two years ago, stands as the deadliest European conflict since World War II.

Throughout the three-day election period, the shadow of war was ever-present. Ukraine launched attacks on Russian oil refineries, shelled Russian regions, and attempted to breach Russian borders with proxy forces. Putin has vowed that these actions will not go unpunished.

Despite Putin’s firm grip on power and the lack of significant challengers, his re-election was seen as an opportunity to demonstrate his widespread support among Russians. Before the polls closed at 1800 GMT, national turnout had already exceeded the 67.5% recorded in 2018.

Supporters of Putin’s most notable opponent, Alexei Navalny, who tragically passed away in an Arctic prison last month, urged Russians to participate in a “Noon against Putin” protest. They aimed to express their dissent against a leader they view as a corrupt autocrat.

The exact number of participants in the opposition demonstrations remains unknown, due to the extremely tight security measures in place, which included the deployment of tens of thousands of police and security officials.

On election day, Reuters reporters observed a noticeable increase in voter turnout, particularly among younger demographics, at polling stations in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. Queues of several hundred to thousands of people formed, with some attendees openly expressing their intent to protest.

As noon approached in Asia and Europe, significant crowds assembled at polling stations located at Russian diplomatic missions. Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, made a notable appearance at the Russian embassy in Berlin, where she was met with cheers and chants of support.

Supporters of Navalny, now in exile, shared footage of protests both within Russia and internationally on YouTube, highlighting the global reach of their dissent.