March 16, 2024


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WATCH: Anti-Putin activists vandalize, set fire at voting stations in protest against election

Some Russian voters have done more than vote to express their displeasure with sitting President Vladimir Putin, going so far as to commit acts of vandalism caught on camera that include setting fire to ballot boxes. 

Russian authorities arrested at least nine people on the first day of voting in an election that analysts and observers around the world have no doubt will hand Putin another term as leader, making him the longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. 

Several people, caught on camera, set polling stations and voting booths on fire in protest. In other locations, one woman poured green dye into a ballot box, a man set off fireworks in a polling station and in Russian-occupied Ukraine someone set off an explosive device, French outlet Le Monde reported. 

A woman who poured disinfectant into a ballot box at a Moscow polling station faces between three and five years for her act, during which she shouted pro-Ukrainian slogans, Russian outlet BAZA reported. 

Authorities have not said whether they believe the incidents may be part of a larger, coordinated effort and protest or simply random incidents, despite the repeated use of green liquid to spoil ballots. The use of green liquid may serve as a reference to late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who in 2017 was attacked by an assailant splashing green disinfectant in his face. 

Prosecutors warned that the government would punish anybody involved in mass rallies and protests. The Associated Press reported that as many as a dozen incidents had occurred on the first day, though it remains unclear if all incidents led to arrests. 

Voting will take place through Sunday, but more than a third of voters had cast their ballots by the time polls closed on Friday night. Voting has occurred both in-person and online, with online voting remaining open around the clock until 8 p.m. local time on Sunday. 

The U.N. Security Council met to protest the election being held in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. ‘As Russia holds sham elections in the territories of Ukraine temporarily under Russia’s control, the U.K. condemns the elections as fraudulent,’ the U.K. said in a statement, with British Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki claiming, ‘These elections are a sham because of a simple truth: you cannot hold legitimate elections in someone else’s country,’

Navalny, the strongest opponent of Putin’s government, died last month while in an arctic colony after collapsing in what prison officials claimed was a case of ‘sudden death syndrome,’ but an anonymous paramedic claiming to work for a morgue told independent news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe that he saw bruising on the body consistent with a person being held down while having a seizure.

The Associated Press labeled the remaining opposition candidates as ‘low-level politicians from token opposition parties that support the Kremlin’s line.’ 

European Council President Charles Michel on Friday half-heartedly congratulated Putin for winning the election before polls even closed, saying Putin would have a ‘landslide victory’ with, ‘No opposition. No freedom. No choice.’ 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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