'Pseudo-election': European leaders condemn Putin's victory

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on a visit to his campaign headquarters after a presidential election in Moscow, early Monday, March 18, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on a visit to his campaign headquarters after a presidential election in Moscow, early Monday, March 18, 2024. Copyright Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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The European Union has said that Russia's recent elections took place in a "highly restrictive environment."

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EU and several European leaders have blasted Putin's election victory in Russia. 

In a statement, the European Union said it regretted that Russia had not invited international observers to monitor the vote. 

Russian voters had been denied an ''impartial and independent'' assessment of the elections, it added. 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the vote a ''pseudo-election'', while the Polish Foreign Ministry described them as being neither ''legal, free or fair.'.

Vladimir Putin won a fifth term as president in a landslide election victory that had an all but certain outcome. 

Russia's number one faced no credible opposition candidates, amid a ruthless crackdown on dissent and critical voices.  

Russian election officials said Putin - who will now serve another six-year term on top of his nearly quarter-century rule - won more than 87% of the vote. 

Putin claimed Russia's democratic system was more transparent than many in the West, scorning US democracy. 

The first day of voting was marred by sporadic protests and acts of vandalism, including arson attacks on polling stations and the destruction of ballot boxes. There was no repeat of these incidents after Friday. 

At least 80 Russians were detained over the three-day vote, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info. 

With little room for protest, supporters of the late Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny crowded outside polling stations at 12:00 on Sunday as a form of symbolic protest. 

Putin hailed the early results as an indication of “trust” and “hope” in him, while Western countries criticised the vote. 

His victory speech focused on the war in Ukraine, as Russia's president said his main task would be securing the border from Ukrainian raids and  “strengthening defence capacity and the military.”

Questioned about rising tensions with NATO, Putin said: “I think that everything is possible in the modern world … everyone understands that this would be one step from a full-scale third world war. I don’t think that anyone is interested in that.”

Other Western politicians have also criticised the election. 

“The polls have closed in Russia, following the illegal holding of elections on Ukrainian territory, a lack of choice for voters and no independent OSCE monitoring. This is not what free and fair elections look like,”  wrote British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on X. 

Any public criticism of the president or his invasion of Ukraine has been stifled. Independent media have been crippled. Putin's fiercest political foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison last month, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

Independent monitoring of the election was extremely limited, plus only token challengers that toe the Kremlin line were allowed to run against Putin.

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According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, Putin had some 87% of the vote with about 90% of precincts counted.

Meduza, Russia’s biggest independent news outlet, published photos of ballots it received from readers, with “killer” inscribed on one, “thief” on another and “The Hague awaits you” on yet another. 

The last refers to an arrest warrant for Putin from the International Criminal Court that accuses him of personal responsibility for abductions of children from Ukraine.

Some people told the AP that they were happy to vote for Putin.

Dmitry Sergienko, who cast his ballot in Moscow, said, “I am happy with everything and want everything to continue as it is now.”

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Voting also took place in the illegally annexed regions of Ukraine.

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