Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Russians cast ballots on Day 2 of poll preordaine­d to extend Putin’s rule


Voters across Russia cast ballots on Saturday on the second day of an election set to formalise six more years of power for President Vladimir Putin, who faces no serious challenger­s after crushing political dissent over his nearly 25 years of rule.

The election comes against the backdrop of a ruthless crackdown that has stifled independen­t media and prominent rights groups.

Putin’s fiercest foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison in February, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

The 71-year-old Putin faces three token rivals from Kremlin-friendly parties, who have refrained from any criticism of him or his invasion of Ukraine.

Putin has cast his war in Ukraine, now in its third year, as an existentia­l battle against the US and other Western powers bent on destroying Russia.

Officials said voting was proceeding in an orderly fashion. But despite tight controls, at least half a dozen cases of

vandalism at polling stations were reported Friday and Saturday, including a firebombin­g and several people pouring green liquid into ballot boxes.

The latter was an apparent homage to Navalny, who in 2017 was attacked by an assailant splashing green disinfecta­nt in his face.

Russian state news agency Tass said a woman in the Urals city of Ekaterinbu­rg Saturday tried to unsuccessf­ully throw green liquid into a ballot box while a pensioner in the Altai region in southern Siberia attempted to damage ballots. Both were detained.

Following reports of vandalism, Russian lawmakers suggested introducin­g a new law to punish election saboteurs with sentences of up to eight years in prison.

Also on Saturday, Ukrainian drone and missile attacks once again hit deep inside the country. Tass said an armed group also tried to penetrate Russia’s border region from Ukraine.

Two people were killed in Ukrainian shelling of the Russian border city of Belgorod, regional Gov.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram, ordering shopping centres and schools to shut down because of the security situation.

Meanwhile, local officials denied reports of explosions at polling stations in the border city, Tass said.

Dozens of people have been killed in Belgorod since the war began. Elsewhere, a Ukrainian drone attack caused a fire at an oil refinery belonging to Russian oil giant Rosneft in the Samara region, 1,065 kilometres southeast of Moscow, the regional governor said.

A Ukrainian drone also dropped an explosive on a polling station in the illegally annexed Zaporizhzh­ia region of Ukraine, Tass said.

In the run-up to the vote, Putin boasted about battlefiel­d successes in Ukraine, where Russian troops have recently made incrementa­l gains relying on their edge in firepower.

On Friday, Putin described the week’s cross-border shelling and incursions by Ukrainian forces as an attempt by Ukraine to frighten Russians and derail the vote. He vowed that the attacks “won’t be left unpunished.”

Despite the attacks, analysts say the Kremlin is looking for a high turnout in the elections as a sign that Russians approve of the war to legitimize Putin for another term.

 ?? AP/PTI ?? Russian President Vladimir Putin
AP/PTI Russian President Vladimir Putin

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