Putin Clinches 5th Term, Officials Say of Early Results From Russian Presidential Election

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
March 17, 2024Europe
Putin Clinches 5th Term, Officials Say of Early Results From Russian Presidential Election
Russian President and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin meets with the media at his campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 18, 2024. (Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin won a record landslide election on Sunday, according to early results, as Western officials have criticized the elections as being unfair and illegitimate.

It means that Mr. Putin, 71, will easily secure a new six-year term that will enable him to become one of Russia’s longest-serving leaders. He won 87.8 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll by pollster the Public Opinion Foundation as well as state-run media.

His opponent from the Communist Party, Nikolay Kharitonov, received about 4.7 percent of the vote, New People Party candidate Vladislav Davankov got 3.6 percent, and Liberal Democrats candidate Leonid Slutsky got 2.5 percent of the vote, state media reported.

Mr. Putin has not commented on the results, but a former political foe, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, wrote on social media that Mr. Putin scored a “brilliant victory in the election of the President of the Russian Federation.”

NTD Photo
Preliminary results of the presidential election are displayed on a screen at the headquarters of Russia’s Central Election Commission in Moscow, Russia, on March 17, 2024. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

US and NATO Criticism

The election comes just over two years since Russia launched an invasion against Ukraine, called a “special military operation” by the Kremlin.

War has hung over the three-day election: Ukraine has repeatedly attacked oil refineries in Russia, shelled Russian regions, and sought to pierce Russian borders with proxy forces—a move Mr. Putin said would not be left unpunished.

Supporters of Putin’s most prominent opponent Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last month, had called on Russians to come out at a “Noon against Putin” protest to show their dissent against the leader. There was no tally of how many of Russia’s 114 million voters took part in the opposition demonstrations, amid extremely tight security involving tens of thousands of police and security officials.

The Biden administration has long been critical of Mr. Putin’s presidency. On Sunday, a spokesperson again said the Russian election was unfair after it was predicted that Mr. Putin would win.

“The elections are obviously not free nor fair,” a White House’s National Security Council spokesperson told news outlets Sunday, adding that political opponents have been imprisoned while others were prevented from running.

But before the election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia’s elections are fine and that democracy is alive and well in the country.

“We will no longer tolerate criticism of our democracy. Our democracy is the best,” Mr. Peskov said last week, according to reports.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also criticized the election and said Mr. Putin only wants to “rule forever.” Meanwhile, NATO countries offered similar criticism of the Russian election, citing the war in Ukraine and Mr. Navalny’s death.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office blasted Russia for having held elections in what they described as “Ukrainian territory,” referring to the regions of the Donbass that, in part, sparked the Ukraine–Russia conflict in 2022.

“By illegally holding elections on Ukrainian territory, Russia demonstrates that it is not interested in finding a path to peace. The UK will continue to provide humanitarian, economic and military aid to Ukrainians defending their democracy,” the UK spokesperson said.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry echoed those claims, saying that the election should not have been held in “occupied territories of Ukraine” and is “another breach of international law.”

Allegations Against US

Amid the election, Mr. Peksov alleged that the United States has been trying to conduct an influence operation against Russia but that Moscow’s security agency was able thwart it. He claimed Washington launched a clandestine campaign on social media in a bid to influence the election.

“One thing I can say is that we have experienced such activities for many years. The United States and the relevant agencies and intelligence services have been doing the same in our country and are still trying to do so,” Mr. Peskov told reporters last week.

Russia People
People stand in a line to enter a polling station around noon on the final day of the presidential election in Moscow on March 17, 2024. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

He added: “And only decisive actions to protect the domestic political landscape and our society from attempts at such interference have largely minimized the effectiveness of the work of the US special services. However, this does not mean that they are abandoning their attempts.”

Last week, Russia’s foreign intelligence service also accused the United States of trying to meddle in Russia’s presidential election and said that Washington even had plans to launch a cyber attack on the online voting system. No evidence was provided.

The United States last week denied allegations that it is trying to interfere with Russia’s presidential election, with a National Security Council spokesman describing those claims as “nothing more than propaganda.”

For years, U.S. intelligence agencies have similarly accused Russia of attempting to meddle in its own elections, culminating in the proliferation of unsubstantiated reports that Moscow colluded with former President Donald Trump to win the presidency in 2016. The former president has denied those claims, while a Justice Department special counsel probe found no evidence corroborating those claims.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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