Navalny widow joins thousands of protesters as Putin declares victory in sham election

The wife of the late Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny joined thousands of protesters at voting stations on Sunday as they vowed to stand up against Vladimir Putin, who declared victory in the rigged presidential elections.

Yulia Navalnaya, who had endorsed her late husband’s call to flock to the polling stations for the “Noon Against Putin” campaign, waited in line for six hours outside the Russian embassy in Berlin before casting her vote.

She told crowds after she left the building that she had written her husband’s name on the ballot, having waited in a line more than a kilometre long and which snaked through multiple streets.

Thousands appeared to heed the call both inside and out of Russia, as opposition figures claimed they had made their voices heard in the face of elections without independent observers or any legitimate opponents to Putin.

“The real winner of Russia’s ‘election’ today — Yulia Navalnaya,” said Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama. “Tens of thousands answered her call and came to the polls today at noon to express their opposition to Putin.”

Vladimir Putin was up against three candidates from parties who have not criticised his rule nor his invasion of Ukraine (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


Russian authorities, meanwhile, arrested more than 80 people across 17 cities for taking part in the campaign, independent human rights organisation OVD-Info reported, despite it involving no obvious illegal behaviour.

In Ufa, southern Russia, one man said he was detained for attempting to throw a photo of Mr Navalny into a ballot box. He told OVD-Info that the authorities then threatened to charge him with obstructing the work of election commissions.

It came as Putin declared his victory after the first exit polls suggested, predictably, that he had won a landslide victory in the presidential elections.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters, Putin thanked those who voted for him and expressed “special gratitude to our warriors on the line of contact”, referring to the soldiers fighting in the war in Ukraine.

He also claimed that the result showed that Russia was building a “common will of the people”.

Before the results were finalised, Russian politicians also began to congratulate Putin on his victory.

“Congratulations to all Russia’s enemies on Vladimir Putin’s brilliant victory in the election of the President of the Russian Federation!” wrote former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on social media. “And a thank you to friends for the support.”

With more than 70 per cent of regions counted, the Russian Central Election Commision claimed Putin had received more than 87 per cent of the vote. The government also claimed the turnout was the highest in history at 74 per cent. In 2018, the turnout was 67.5 per cent.

In occupied Ukraine, where armed Russian soldiers were seen looming over Ukrainian civilians in the polling stations, the commission claimed more than 90 percent of voters had signed for Putin.

It was widely expected that Putin would not only win these rigged elections but that he would improve on his previous victory in 2018, in which he received more than 76 per cent of the vote. In 2012, he received 63.6 per cent of the vote.

“The difference between these elections and previous ones: this time they decided not to even count,” joked exiled Russian opposition politician Lyubov Sobol. “Previously, they somehow still calculated and adjusted.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not spoken to his Russian counterpart since Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, said the autocrat had become “sick with power”.

“These days, the Russian dictator imitates another ‘elections’,” he said. “Everyone in the world understands that this person, like many others throughout history, has become sick with power and will stop at nothing to rule forever.

“Everything Russia does in Ukraine’s occupied territories is a crime. This imitation of ‘elections’ has no legitimacy and cannot have any. This person must end up on the dock in The Hague.”

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