Muzzled opposition, critical voices of the Ukrainian conflict unceremoniously repressed: Russians voted on Sunday in regional elections without suspense, also organized in the annexed territories of Ukraine, where the Russian president's party is victorious, according to Moscow.
Russia's Central Election Commission said Sunday evening that President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party came first in these regional elections in the four territories annexed to Ukraine.
Ella Pamfilova, president of the Electoral Commission, welcomed the elections taking place "dynamically, with few violations."
With these elections spread over three days, from Friday to Sunday, Moscow is trying to legitimize its annexations in Ukraine by voting in the occupied territories in the east and south.
Despite strong condemnations from the West, Russia proclaimed in September 2022 the annexation of four Ukrainian territories that it only partially controls - Zaporizhjia, Kherson, Donetsk and Lugansk -, following "referendums" not recognized by the International community. kyiv and its allies have already denounced “illegal” ballots.
The fighting is still raging there and the Ukrainian army has launched a counter-offensive.
For more than a year and a half, thousands of Russians have been sentenced, sometimes to heavy sentences, for protesting against the offensive in Ukraine.
No real “outside the system” opposition is represented: the opponents are either in prison or in exile.
The outcome of these elections organized to appoint governors, regional deputies and municipal elected officials should therefore not cause any surprises.
The vote comes a few months before the presidential election scheduled for early 2024, which could consolidate Vladimir Putin in power until 2030.
In the four annexed Ukrainian regions, the occupation authorities have bent over backwards to present some semblance of normalcy, despite the ongoing fighting.
In the Donetsk region, voters cast ballots adorned with the Russian double-headed eagle, while in the Kherson region, Governor Vladimir Saldo declared a non-working Friday so that each citizen could “express their position”.
In several Russian regions, where the influx of voters is traditionally the largest on Sunday, the vote is also colored by the conflict.
In Rostov-on-Don, a large city in southwest Russia located not far from Ukraine and hit this week by a drone attack, two voters interviewed by AFP on Sunday near a polling station spontaneously cited this armed conflict as their main concern.
"Above all, we want to live in peace, us and our children," said Nina Antonova, a specialist in labor protection, 40.
-Only problem: war -
“Everyone is only concerned about one problem: the war. We have no other problems,” assures Anatoli, an 84-year-old retiree.
In Moscow, outgoing mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a loyal follower of Vladimir Putin in office since 2010, omnipresent on television in recent days to inaugurate new regional train lines or renovated hospitals, was re-elected without difficulty.
“The winner is unequivocally already known,” declared Sunday evening an official of the central electoral commission, Nikolai Bulaev, sending his congratulations to the councilor “for such a convincing victory.”
Muscovites met by AFP said they appreciated the modern turn taken by the Russian capital under the leadership of Mr. Sobyanin.
“Moscow is blooming before our eyes!” exclaims Rukhin Aliev, a 21-year-old student.
“We are only for him!”, engages Olga, a 67-year-old retiree.
Several hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow, in the border regions of Ukraine, regularly targets of attacks from kyiv, the security conditions for the organization of the vote are precarious.
The chairman of the Electoral Commission, Ella Pamfilova, has already announced that voting in the town of Chebekino, Belgorod region, has been "postponed due to a high alert level."
The only notable political development: in southern Siberia, Communist Party candidate Valentin Konovalov, 35, is trying to be re-elected in the mountainous and sparsely populated region of Khakhassia. He is far ahead of his opponents, according to the official TASS agency.
10/09/2023 21:02:34 - Moscow (AFP) - © 2023 AFP