Russian elections: A foregone conclusion and under-the-radar protests

This Sunday marks the end of the third day of voting, which promises little surprise. The opposition called for protests both inside and outside the country.

Sunday marks the final day of the presidential elections in Russia that began on Friday. Even before the first Russian cast his vote, Vladimir Putin could already celebrate. With no strong contenders (the most competitive candidates were banned) and with tight control of voting centers, in addition to the state apparatus as a whole, his victory was never in doubt. The first exit polls give him 87% of the vote, according to AFP.

With the victor all but determined in advance, it remained to be seen only the margin of victory. Putin was hoping for a landslide result, which will underpin his next six years at the helm of the Kremlin and his war effort in Ukraine. Such an outcome only seemed threatened by a potential low turnout. Early reports on voter turnout dispel this doubt: "the face-to-face turnout in the presidential election at [4:02 p.m.] Moscow time was 70.01%," a figure that does not include electronic voting, read a report from Russia’s state-owned TASS media agency.

Meanwhile, protests against the regime have been seen both inside and outside the country. According to official sources, some voters poured ink on ballot boxes or attempted to start fires. The latter incidents resulted in at least 15 criminal proceedings. Others have opted for more discreet methods, such as going to vote at 12:00 so that long lines form or writing on ballots.

"Thief and murderer. No to war," and "Murderer, you will never win. Glory to Ukraine!" were some of the messages shared by readers of the independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe, alluding to one of the big shadows over the electoral process: the war in Ukraine. The other is the death of dissident Alexei Navalny in prison.

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's wife, went to one of the lines gathered by the "Noon Against Putin" campaign outside the Berlin embassy: