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Putin’s re-election confirms Russia is an ‘authoritarian society,’ NATO chief says


Vladimir Putin claimed a fifth presidential term with a landslide victory in a tightly controlled election that was condemned by the West as neither free nor fair, as the Russian leader seeks to prove overwhelming popular support for his all-out invasion. scale of Ukraine and increasingly repressive. Strategies.

With 99.75 percent of ballots counted, Putin won a new six-year term with a post-Soviet record 87.29 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission (TsIK) said on March 18, adding that the participation rate was also at a “record” level. , with 77.44 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.

Putin, 71, who has served as president or prime minister since 2000, is now poised to surpass Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s nearly 30-year reign to become Russia’s longest-serving leader in more than two centuries.

“This election was based on repression and intimidation,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Brussels on March 18, as the bloc’s foreign ministers met. gathered to discuss, among other things, the election.

The March 15-17 vote is Putin’s first since launching his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which killed tens of thousands of Russians and led to a sharp break in relations with the West. By holding what has been widely seen as a fake election, Putin wants to show he has the full support of the nation, experts said.

The vote also took place in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, where there are hundreds of thousands of Russian troops. Moscow has illegally annexed these regions since the invasion launched, although it remains unclear how much of the territory it controls.

The Kremlin’s goal “is to get as many people as possible to approve of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The idea is to get millions of Russian citizens to retroactively approve of the decision made by Putin alone two years ago,” said Maksim Trudolyubov, a senior Kremlin official. researcher at the Kennan Institute, wrote in a note before the vote.

In remarks shortly after being declared the winner, Putin said the election showed the nation was “a team.”

But Western leaders condemned the vote, with the White House spokesman saying it “was clearly neither free nor fair”, and EU foreign ministers categorically rejecting it as a sham before agree to impose sanctions on individuals linked to the Kremlin critic’s mistreatment and death. Alexei Navalny.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told RFE/RL in an interview in Tbilisi on the second day of his visit to the Caucasus that the Russian elections were “neither free nor fair.” He said those who had the courage to oppose Putin “are either forced to flee, to live abroad, or imprisoned, or some of them are killed, as we saw with Alexei Navalny.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, speaking at the start of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, said Russia’s election was “an election without choice.”

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourne said the conditions for free, pluralistic and democratic elections were not met, and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the election result highlighted the “depth of repression” in Russia.

“Putin eliminates his political opponents, controls the media, then declares himself the winner. This is not democracy,” Cameron said.

France, Britain and other countries have condemned the fact that Russia also held its elections in occupied regions of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Putin has become “sick of power” and is only “faking” the elections.

“This imitation of ‘elections’ has no legitimacy and cannot have any. This person must end up in the dock in The Hague (at the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal),” Zelenskiy said on x.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Putin and again offered to mediate between Moscow and Ukraine, the Turkish presidency announced.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the presidents of Azerbaijan and Belarus also congratulated Putin, as did the leaders of China, Iran and North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said President Xi Jinping and the Russian leader “will continue to maintain close exchanges, lead the two countries to continue to maintain a long-standing good-neighborly friendship and to deepen their overall strategic coordination.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called Putin’s victory “decisive”, the official IRNA news agency reported, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a congratulatory message to Putin cited by the state news agency. Korean Central Press (KCNA) that Russian voters had shown “unwavering support and confidence in” their president, state media reported.

In this tightly controlled race, Putin went up against three relatively unknown, Kremlin-friendly politicians whose campaigns were barely noticeable.

Before the election, the Kremlin excluded anti-war politician Boris Nadezhdin from the ballot after tens of thousands of voters lined up in the cold to support his candidacy. Nadezhdin threatened to undermine the narrative of a united nation behind Putin and his war, experts said.

Russia’s opposition movement suffered a blow last month when Navalny, who was Putin’s fiercest and most popular critic, died in unclear circumstances in a maximum-security Arctic prison where he had been serving a 19-year prison sentence for extremism widely seen as politically motivated.

Russian political analyst Ivan Preobrazhensky said in an interview with Current Time that Putin was also frightened by the rebellion staged by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in June, when Prigozhin’s forces briefly took control of Rostov-on-the-Mer. Don and were greeted by many citizens as heroes.

Prigozhin ended his rebellion before reaching Moscow and was later killed in a plane crash that many believe was Kremlin retaliation.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP and dpa



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