Putin won the presidential election with 88 percent of the vote

A group around slain Kremlin dissident Alexei Navalny said on the final day of Russia's presidential election that many protest participants opposed the re-election of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin. Forecasts on the outcome of the referendum are expected around 7 a.m. CET, after polls close in Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) on ​​the Baltic Sea. Putin is expected to win more than 80 percent of the vote, according to state election analysts.

In Vladivostok, Russia's far east, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Irkutsk and other Siberian cities, people came to take part in the “lunch against Putin” campaign at lunchtime (local time), Navalny's group showed in a live stream. Network light. In Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, hundreds of people lined up at a polling station. Other Putin opponents, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian businessman exiled in Great Britain, also called on people not to panic and to take part in the action.

Navalny's group complained of massive fraud in the vote. Leonid Volkov, an opposition member from Navalny's team, said there was illegal pressure on voters from state-owned enterprises and public employers to participate in the referendum. He also complained of widespread online voting fraud. According to official data, the online voter turnout was already over 90 percent on Sunday morning.

The opposition suggested that voters should invalidate the ballot papers by ticking too many of the four candidates. Navalny also had the option of using a random generator that would output a candidate's name on a cell phone invented by Navalny. During the “Lunch against Putin” campaign, we can look each other in the eye, find like-minded people and experience that there are many anti-Putin people. We have a majority,” Khodorkovsky said in his video call.

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Authorities in Russia have sometimes warned against such protests and threatened people with extremism charges. In contrast, initiators and supporters, including the widow Yulia Navalnaya, insisted that everyone had the right to participate in the vote. Photos and videos from polling stations abroad where hundreds of people took part in the anti-Putin campaign were also shown.

According to independent experts in Russia and abroad, the general conditions of the election were neither free nor fair: the opposition was excluded and the three recognized opposition candidates were considered loyal to the Kremlin. Several reports suggest that Russians are being pressured to participate in the election. As several Russian media reported, citizens in Moscow who knew the authorities about their critical position received warning messages on their cellphones from unknown senders. According to the Meduza portal, they were told to go vote “but without queues.”

In the first two days, many protested by pouring paint on the ballot boxes to invalidate the votes inside. In the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, a professor at a local university was arrested for such an attempt and held for 15 days. In other cases, higher fines are imposed. Attempts to set fire to polling booths were also reported at many places. According to the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europa, 15 cases were opened by Saturday.

Independent election watchdog Colossus is particularly concerned about manipulation of results in online voting and voting machines. A classic method of election fraud was reported from Krasnodar in southern Russia on Saturday: a member of the election commission threw a large number of ballots into the urn.

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Elections will be held in the world's largest country spanning eleven time zones. Polling stations in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad close at 7pm CET on Sunday. The results of the post-election polls and the first counting results will be released later. Totals are usually up by Monday morning. The official final result will be announced on March 28.

There is international criticism that fake elections are also being held in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Russia annexed these territories in violation of international law. In the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, the election commission said voter turnout had already reached 86.75 percent by Saturday evening. The Russian opposition, including Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Kremlin dissident Alexei Navalny, who died in custody, has called on foreign countries not to recognize Putin's re-election.

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