Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Russians crowd polling stations in apparent protest as Putin set to extend his rule


Russians crowded outside polling stations at midday Sunday on the last day of a three-day presidenti­al election, apparently heeding an opposition call to protest against President Vladimir Putin, who is poised to extend his rule of nearly a quarter century for six more years after a relentless crackdown on dissent.

The election that began Friday has taken place in a tightly controlled environmen­t where there are no real alternativ­es to Putin, no public criticism of him or his war in Ukraine. Putin’s fiercest political foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison last month, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

Navalny’s associates have urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to protest by coming to the polls at noon on Sunday, a strategy endorsed by Navalny shortly before his death. Team Navalny described it as a success, releasing pictures and videos of people crowding near polling stations in cities across Russia around noon.

The 71-year-old Russian leader faces three token rivals from Kremlin-friendly parties who have refrained from any criticism of his 24-year rule or his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Putin has boasted of Russian battlefiel­d successes in the run-up to the vote, but a massive Ukrainian drone attack across Russia early Sunday sent a reminder of challenges faced by Moscow.

The Russian Defense Min

istry reported downing 35 Ukrainian drones overnight, including four near the Russian capital. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said there were no casualties or damage.

Russia’s wartime economy has proven resilient, expanding despite bruising Western sanctions.

The Russian defense industry has served as a key growth engine, working around the clock to churn out missiles, tanks and ammunition.

Voting is taking place at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine, and online. More than 60% of eligible voters had cast ballots as of early Sunday.

Dmitry Sergienko, who cast his ballot in Moscow, said he voted for Putin: “I am happy with everything and want everything to continue as it is now.” Olga Dymova, who also backed Putin, said, “I am sure that our country will only move forward towards success.”

Another Moscow voter,

who identified himself only by his first name, Vadim, said he hopes for change, but added that “unfortunat­ely, it’s unlikely.”

Navalny’s associates broadcast footage with comments by those who turned up at the polls at noon to protest Putin, their faces blurred to protect their identities.

“The action has achieved its goals,” Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a YouTube broadcast. “The action has shown that there is another Russia, there are people who stand against Putin.”

Another Navalny ally, Leonid Volkov, said that the protest was meant to help unify and encourage those who oppose Putin.

It wasn’t possible to confirm if the voters shown lining up at polling stations in videos and photos released by Navalny’s associates and some Russian media had responded to the protest call, or merely reflected strong turnout.

 ?? ?? The three-day election was began on Friday
The three-day election was began on Friday

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