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Ukraine-Russia war live: Putin’s election hit by Navalny-inspired protests as Kyiv targets oil refineries

Russian gas pipeline explodes in huge fireball blast amid series of ‘Ukrainian strikes’

Ukraine drones have struck two oil refineries belonging to state-owned oil giant Rosneft in the Samara region, the governor claimed on Saturday as millions of Russians cast their votes in a sham three-day presidential election that Vladimir Putin is expected to win.

The Syzran refinery was on fire but an attack on the Novokubyshev refinery was thwarted, the governor of Russia’s Samara region, Dmitry Azarov said. Workers at both plants were evacuated with no casualties reported, he added.

Earlier this week, attacks targeted oil refineries in the Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and Leningrad regions.

The latest strike comes after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that Russia will receive a “fair response” from his forces for a “vile” assault on Odesa, which killed at least 20 people and wounded at least 70.

Ukrainian officials said it was Moscow’s deadliest attack in weeks when a Russian missile attack hit civilian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, in Russia, at least half a dozen cases of vandalism at polling stations were reported, including a firebombing, as citizens voted in a three-day presidential election that will extend Vladimir Putin’s rule by six more years after he stifled dissent.

The election takes place against the backdrop of a crackdown that has crippled independent media and prominent rights groups and given Putin full control of the political system.

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Two Russian oil refineries struck by Ukraine drones, says governor

Ukrainian drones struck two oil refineries belonging to state-owned oil giant Rosneft in Russia’s Samara region, the governor alleged.

Russia is voting through Sunday in a sham three-day presidential elections, with president Vladimir Putin on Friday accusing Ukraine of attempting to sabotage the polls he is certain to win.

The Volga River region’s Syzran refinery was on fire but an attack on the Novokubyshev refinery was thwarted, the governor of Russia’s Samara region, Dmitry Azarov said. He said workers at both plants had been evacuated and that there were no casualties.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar16 March 2024 06:49

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Candidates vetted by Kremlin, expert says

All candidates on the ballot for Russia’s sham election are vetted by the Kremlin and don’t expect to win against Vladimir Putin, an expert said.

Professor Samuel Greene, of King’s College London, said candidates are only allowed to campaign within red lines set by Putin – meaning any real opposition is nonexistent.

He told The Independent: “All parties that are able to function in Russia are coordinated by the presidential administration. Candidate lists are vetted by the Kremlin; fundraising is both limited and enabled by the Kremlin.

“The opposition candidates are being careful not to be any more aggressive than Putin is in his campaigning. They don’t really expect to win.”

Russia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) head Ella Pamfilova speaks at the opening of the CEC Information Centre in the run-up for the presidential election in Moscow

(AFP via Getty Images)

Alexander Butler16 March 2024 08:09

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Russia elections: Everything you need to know about sham presidential polls that will hand Putin fifth term

Alexander Butler16 March 2024 08:00

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Russia’s ruling party says it is hit by cyberattack during sham election

Russia has been hit by a cyberattack amid the country’s sham election as Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of seeking to sabotage the polls, the Kremlin claimed.

United Russia said it was facing a widespread denial of service attack – a form of cyberattack that snarls internet use – against its online presence, and it had suspended non-essential services to repel the interruption.

Alexander Butler16 March 2024 07:41

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Ukraine missile strike’ kills two in Russia, governor alleges

At least two people were killed and three sustained injuries in a Ukrainian missile strike on the Russian border city of Belgorod, the regional governor said on Saturday.

The alleged attack comes amid the ongoing three-day sham presidential elections that Vladimir Putin is expected to win.

Mr Putin on Friday accused Ukraine of trying to sabotage the polls.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar16 March 2024 07:36

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Yes, the Russian election is rigged – but there could still be surprises for Putin

With the results of the vote already known in advance, it may be tempting to cast a blind eye to the proceedings, writes Mary Dejevsky

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar16 March 2024 07:30

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Catholic activist in Belarus jailed in crackdown on dissent

Jane Dalton16 March 2024 07:05

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People cast votes in Russia-controlled part of Ukraine

People cast their votes at a mobile polling station during early voting in Russia’s presidential election in Russian-controlled part of Donetsk region, Ukraine

(Anadolu via Getty Images)

People cast their votes at a mobile polling station during early voting in Russia’s presidential election in Russian-controlled part of Donetsk region, Ukraine

(Anadolu via Getty Images)

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar16 March 2024 06:30

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Over a third of Russian voters cast ballots

By the time polls closed on Friday night in Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, more than a third of the country’s eligible voters had cast ballots in person and online, according to Russia’s Central Election Commission.

Online voting, which began Friday morning, is available around the clock in Moscow and 28 other regions until 8pm local time on Sunday.

Officials said voting proceeded in an orderly fashion, but in St Petersburg, a woman threw a Molotov cocktail on the roof of a school that houses a polling station, local news media reported.

The deputy head of the Russian Central Election Commission said people poured green liquid into ballot boxes in five places, including Moscow.

News sites also reported that a woman in Moscow set fire to a voting booth. Such acts are incredibly risky since interfering with elections is punishable by up to five years in prison.

No significant international observers were present. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s monitors were not invited, and only registered candidates or state-backed advisory bodies can assign observers to polling stations, decreasing the likelihood of independent watchdogs.

With balloting over three days in nearly 100,000 polling stations, any true oversight is difficult anyway.

“The elections in Russia as a whole are a sham. The Kremlin controls who’s on the ballot. The Kremlin controls how they can campaign. To say nothing of being able to control every aspect of the voting and the vote-counting process,” said Sam Greene, director for Democratic Resilience at the Centre for European Policy Analysis in Washington.

Ukraine and the West have also condemned Russia for holding the vote in Ukrainian regions that Moscow’s forces have seized and occupied.

Members of a local election committee in Donetsk, a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine

(EPA)

Jane Dalton16 March 2024 06:01

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Alexei Navalny’s final plan to disrupt Russia’s sham elections

Russian citizens will spend this weekend casting their vote for their next president, even though the result has already been decided.

Vladimir Putin, already the longest-serving ruler of Russia since Joseph Stalin, will win a fifth and unconstitutional term after polls close on Sunday.

No amount of votes against him can prevent his victory, say the Russian dissident community, since the system is rigged and those that could challenge him have either been killed, imprisoned or exiled.

But the Russian dissident community has nevertheless convened a plan to disturb this rubber-stamping exercise.

Known as “Noon Against Putin”, Russian citizens frustrated with the leader’s rule are being called to head to the voting booths all at the same time: Midday, 17 March, the final day of the election.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar16 March 2024 05:30


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