Russia 2024 Elections: Putin reaffirms his power after the electoral farce |

“This is life,” Vladimir Putin declared as soon as he won the presidential elections in Russia regarding the death of dissident Alexei Navalny just a month and a day ago. The president has dared to pronounce the name of his great political enemy for the first time since he died, during a press conference he held on Sunday at midnight at the headquarters of his electoral team, in Moscow, to celebrate his victory in an election where no real opposition has been allowed. However, in his intervention he did not offer any details of the opponent’s sudden death, at the age of 47, in a prison in the Arctic Circle. Navalni’s entourage reported that he was murdered when he was going to be exchanged for a Federal Security Service (FSB) assassin imprisoned in Germany. “I agreed, I wanted to exchange him [a Navalni] and that he would not return, but these things happen, that’s life,” Putin added.

The scrutiny, with all the votes counted, gives him 87.28% of the votes, according to the Central Electoral Commission. The president of this organization, Ela Pamfilova, reported this Monday that participation reached 77.4% of the electorate, a record figure in the modern history of Russia. The president also surpassed his own records from previous elections. In the 2012 presidential elections he obtained 63.6% of the votes, and in 2018, after the presidential terms were extended to six years, he obtained 76.7%.

Putin, 71, has shown renewed self-confidence to journalists and his election campaign team. First, he has claimed that his results are a boost to his plans, including the invasion of Ukraine when “the nation defends its progress with weapons in its hands.” “[La victoria electoral] It is a sign of confidence on the part of the citizens and of hope that everything that lies ahead of us will be fulfilled,” he told his campaign team. “Our plans are great,” he added, going on to point out that one of them is to “expand Russian weapons.”

For Putin, these elections are only going “according to plan.” After two years and a month of war, its border regions have become a daily target of Ukrainian drones and rockets. However, the most important thing for him is that the power is under control.

Putin, during the press conference after his electoral victory, on Sunday.Maxim Shemetov (REUTERS)

Moscow and the Russian border with Ukraine are separated by 800 kilometers, the distance between living as if the war did not exist or having to seek refuge at any moment from bombs. In these two very different Russias, Vladimir Putin has reigned for 24 years, and his sovereignty will be extended after this Sunday for another six years, until 2030. The Russian leader has gained supposedly massive support from his people, even greater than 76 .7% that was awarded in 2018, with a participation of 74.2% of the electoral roll. Objective accomplished to justify his next unpopular orders.

Putin’s rivals have been crushed, the electoral system presents enormous suspicions, starting with the opaque electronic voting, and the security forces and their judges leave no room for peaceful protest. Voters dissatisfied with the Kremlin can barely show their anger with gestures that are as symbolic as they are harmless. According to Putin, the call by opposition groups to show up at schools at noon and vote for any other candidate as a sign of protest “has not had a special effect.”

“If there were calls to vote—from the opposition—they are commendable, but the important thing is that some spoiled the ballots and that is bad,” Putin criticized.

However, an important part of the population, if not an overwhelming majority, supports the president. It is impossible to verify this without open elections, but according to the independent polling center Levada, Putin’s approval within Russia is around 85%.

The president has never had fewer rivals in an election. Only three candidacies have been approved by his shadow adviser, Sergei Kiriyenko. All of them from formations loyal to power. Specifically, Nikolai Kharitonov, who is not even the leader of the Communist Party and already failed miserably in the 2004 elections; Leonid Slutski, successor of the populist Vladimir Zhirinovski and whose popularity at the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is zero; and Vladislav Davankov, head of New People, a Kremlin satellite party created in 2019 to hook the new generations.

Beyond the cosmopolitan Moscow and Saint Petersburg, countless Russian cities feed their army with volunteers. Many do it out of patriotism and others for a salary that is unimaginable in their provinces: 205,000 rubles (about 2,000 euros), between four and six times more than what an average job offers. And if they die or are injured, compensation for their family skyrockets by several million rubles.

Screen with the preliminary results of the candidates for the presidential elections.
Screen with the preliminary results of the candidates for the presidential elections. Evgenia Novozhenina (REUTERS)

Moscow, a liberal city far from death

Moscow lives oblivious to the war. Its restaurants and nightclubs have never been evacuated due to an air raid alarm, and soldiers are not seen on its streets, except in the train stations, where volunteers and mobilized people from other poorer regions of Russia pass on their way to the front.

There are also no posters of the presidential candidates, although advertisements encouraging people to vote flood every corner of the city. Candidate Putin’s electoral propaganda is non-existent, but the news and praise of President Putin are constant.

Dozens of Russians were queuing at 12 in the morning on Sunday at the entrance to polling station 51 in Moscow. It was the time at which they had been called to protest symbolically. The call was made by Navalni’s team. This was one of the countless small gatherings that were repeated in the rest of the country’s electoral centers, which were also echoed in different European capitals, where Russian dissidents gathered at noon. Those on Sunday were small silent protests that did not offer the spectacular image of the opposition that Navalni’s funeral achieved, because voters are dispersed in thousands of parts of the nation.

“It is not an act that is going to change anything, but it is a demonstration for myself,” said Alexandra, a woman who went to vote accompanied by her young daughter, at a school in the Russian capital. “I support Navalny,” she acknowledged while she waited to vote. The police watched from afar.

“Moscow is a liberal city, it is not Russia,” Andréi, in his thirties, remarked to this newspaper while waiting in line. “In addition, we are also divided here,” added the young man before stating that he was going to vote for the current Russian president.

“I never voted for Putin, but in 2022 – the year the invasion of Ukraine began – I changed my mind. I saw the hypocrisy of European values, how they give false hugs. His sanctions, his hatred of the Russians,” said Andrei, who expressed a very widespread opinion in Russia: “Navalni was not the favorite politician of many Russians,” he added, before asserting that his image “has been overstated in Europe, as that of his widow, Yulia Navalnaya.”

At least 75 people were detained in 17 Russian cities on Sunday, the third and final day of the presidential elections, according to the OVD-Info platform. This organization for the protection of protesters reveals that some voters were arrested for introducing invalid ballots or showing their opinions openly at polling stations.

Other Russian media revealed that some ballots contained handwritten messages such as “No to war!” or “Navalni”. In fact, some followers of the dissident placed electoral ballots at the grave of Putin’s great political enemy.

Vladimir Putin, upon his arrival at the headquarters of his electoral team in Moscow, on Sunday.
Vladimir Putin, upon his arrival at the headquarters of his electoral team in Moscow, on Sunday.GAVRIIL GRIGOROV (SPUTNIK/ KREMLIN/ EFE)

Belgorod, ghost city in continuous tension

In the Russian city of Belgorod, about 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, the elections were experienced in a very different way from Moscow. Belgorod has changed radically in the last year and is now a ghost town. A large part of its population has left as Ukrainian attacks have intensified in recent months, and concrete anti-drone shelters have sprung up everywhere in the streets.

Mikhail is a former military pilot, a Russian veteran of the 1979-1989 Afghanistan war, who is not considering leaving Belgorod and defends the president: “It is not necessary for Putin to have competitors in the elections,” Mikhail stated on Sunday. “He has the power, it’s about being strong.” He also justified the war: “There is no way around it. We invaded Ukraine and I understand that we need it,” he argued. However, her wife Yana pointed out to her husband: “But before 2022 they never attacked us.” However, both share that Putin is the best option for Russia and for them.

The train from Belgorod to Moscow was packed on Saturday, especially with children accompanied by their mothers and grandmothers, and soldiers returning from the front. In the capital, much safer, awaited a Putin ready to begin his fifth term after the conclusion of the electoral farce.

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