Russians head to the polls with Putin certain to secure fifth term in office

Photo: Maxim Shipenkov / EPA-EFE

Photo: Maxim Shipenkov / EPA-EFE

Russians began heading to the polls on Friday morning as voting began in a three-day presidential election designed to hand Vladimir Putin a fifth term in office.

Polling stations are open across the country’s 11 time zones until Sunday evening, with citizens also able to cast their vote online in 27 Russian regions, as well as in occupied Crimea.

The election will be contested by four candidates: Putin, the incumbent, who is running as an independent candidate; Nikolay Kharitonov of the Communist Party; Leonid Slutsky of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; and Vladislav Davankov of the centre-right New People Party. Kharitonov and Slutsky have previously expressed their support for Putin and both men have played down their chances of victory.

All three politicians running against Putin are widely regarded as state-approved “systemic” candidates, with war critics Boris Nadezhdin and Yekaterina Duntsova barred from running by Russia’s Central Electoral Commission on technicalities. While Davankov’s manifesto includes a point on “peace and negotiations”, it stresses that these should be “on [Russia’s] terms with no roll-back”.

Russian opposition figures including Yulia Navalnaya and jailed Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza have called on Western leaders not to recognise the results of the election, with Navalnaya writing in the Washington Post that this would send an “important signal […] that Russia is ruled not by a president recognised by all, but by someone who is despised and publicly condemned”.

Navalnaya also urged Russians to head to polling stations en masse at noon on Sunday as part of the Noon Against Putin protest, a way of showing their opposition to the regime in the absence of any real alternative candidates.

The Russian authorities have attempted to disrupt the planned protest by warning potential participants that the movement was “extremist” and by sending fake messages about it being rescheduled.

As with previous presidential elections in Russia, this weekend’s election is expected to be marred by fraud, with widespread reports of civil servants being pressured to vote by their employers.

In Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, election officials and soldiers were reportedly going door-to-door with ballot boxes in an attempt to coerce locals to vote, while in Russia’s western Belgorod region voting was disrupted on Friday morning amid Ukrainian missile attacks and incursions by Russian volunteer units fighting for Ukraine into the area.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.