Business Standard

Putin on brink of 6 more years in power

- REUTERS

Russians cast their ballots across the country's 11 time zones on Friday for a threeday presidenti­al election that is all but certain to extend President Vladimir Putin's rule by six more years after he stifled dissent.

The election comes as Moscow's war in Ukraine enters its third year. Russia has the advantage on the battlefiel­d, where it is making small, if slow, gains. Ukraine, meanwhile, has made Moscow look vulnerable behind the front line: Long-range drone attacks have struck deep inside Russia, while high-tech drones have put its Black Sea fleet on the defensive.

Voters are casting their ballots Friday through Sunday at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, as well as in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine. Russians also can vote online, the first time the option has been used in a presidenti­al contest; more than 200,000 people in Moscow voted online soon after the polls opened, authoritie­s said.

The Kremlin says Putin, in power as president or prime minister since the last day of 1999, will win as he commands broad support for rescuing Russia from post-soviet chaos and standing up to what it says is an arrogant, hostile West.

From Chukotka on the Pacific 6,300 Km (3,900 miles) away from Moscow to the Kaliningra­d exclave on the Baltic Sea bordering Poland, some of Russia's more than 190 ethnic groups turned out to vote in national costume.

In Yakutsk, an eastern Siberian city, the descendent of a Yukaghir shaman asked spirits to bring good luck to the winner of the election during a ceremony at one polling station.

The election holds little suspense since Putin, 71, is running for his fifth term virtually unchalleng­ed. His political opponents are either in jail or in exile abroad, and the fiercest of them, Alexei Navalny, died in a remote Arctic penal colony last month.

The three other candidates on the ballot are low-profile politician­s from token opposition parties that toe the Kremlin’s line.

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the presidenti­al election, in Moscow on Friday
PHOTO: REUTERS A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the presidenti­al election, in Moscow on Friday

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