15 Mar 2024

Protesters spoil ballots in defiance of President Putin as polls open in Russia’s election

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The European Council President has congratulated Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory, as voting gets underway in Russia’s presidential elections. Polling stations will be open throughout the weekend, but it’s already clear who the winner will be. Vladimir Putin has no meaningful competition – with candidates opposed to the war in Ukraine kept off the ballot, and his opponents either jailed, in exile or dead.

A few people angry at that lack of choice found ways to make their views known. One woman threw a Molotov cocktail at a polling station in Saint Petersburg. Others poured coloured liquid into ballot boxes – an apparent reference to the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who once had green disinfectant thrown in his face.

Faced with the unenviable choice of backing Putin or taking the risk of speaking out against him, many Russians are opting out of the political process entirely.