Russia is witnessing protests at polling stations as Putin prepares to extend his long rule


Russia witnessed protests at polling stations on Sunday on the final day of voting in elections that are set to extend Russian President Vladimir Putin's long grip on power.

The queues at some polling stations in Russia suddenly widened around 12 noon local time on Sunday, the time when supporters turned out. The late opposition leader Alexei Navalny He called on people to come out en masse to show support for the opposition.

A CNN team at a Moscow polling station said the line expanded quickly over a period of five to 10 minutes around noon, and an estimated 150 people arrived.

The CNN team said that police allowed people in batches to pass through the gates, with metal detectors and bags checked inside the building.

One 39-year-old voter said he came at noon “to see other people, and they came too.”

“This is the first time in my life I have seen a queue for an election,” one woman told the CNN team. When asked why she had come at that hour, she simply replied: “You know why. I think everyone in this queue knows why.”


Voters line up at a polling station in St. Petersburg, Russia, at noon local time on Sunday.

It's unclear how many polling places across the country saw an increase in the number of people waiting around noon. Reuters and Agence France-Presse news agencies also reported protests.

Social media channels set up by Navalny's supporters showed videos of lines in several places, including Moscow neighborhoods such as Nekrasovka, on Tverskaya Street and locations in St. Petersburg. Navalny's team also posted a photo from Novosibirsk with the caption: “Today is #noon. The protest has already been organized in the first cities of Siberia. We can't wait to see you.”

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More supporters of the Kremlin critic gathered around his grave to pay their respects on Sunday. A video clip shows dozens of people gathered around the grave at Borisovsky Cemetery in Moscow, with some laying flowers while others stood silently or took photos.

Russians abroad also responded to calls from Navalny's supporters to protest at polling stations, forming long lines outside the Russian embassies in Berlin and London.

Meanwhile, Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, was photographed in Berlin on Sunday, receiving supporters who demonstrated against Putin.

Earlier this month, Yulia called for an “all-Russian protest action,” adding: “Alexey called for me to participate in this action at noon against Putin, and that is why it is very important to me.”

She called on supporters to register their protest by simultaneously showing up at polling stations, then making their own decision to vote against Putin, write in favor of Navalny, invalidate their ballot, or simply leave in silent protest.

Speaking on YouTube, Navalnaya said the protests “will take place not only in every city, but in every district of every city, and millions of Russians can participate in them and will be watched by tens of millions more.”

Navalny is Putin's strongest opponent He died at the age of 47 in an Arctic prison on February 16, sparking condemnation from world leaders and accusations from his aides that he had been murdered. The Kremlin denied any involvement in his death.

Voting in the presidential elections witnessed some acts of civil disobedience Russia has filed at least 15 criminal cases After people poured dye into ballot boxes, started fires, or threw Molotov cocktails.

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More than 60 Russians were detained in 16 Russian cities on Sunday, according to the independent human rights group OVD-Info.

The opposition has been effectively banned in Russia since it launched its invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

Sunday marks the third and final day of voting, as Russian President Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win a fifth term in office.

Voting was held across the country's 11 time zones – from the easternmost regions near Alaska to the western Kaliningrad region on the Baltic coast – and 88 federal districts, including Parts of occupied Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia.

Polling stations are closed in all but the western regions of Russia, and the first election results are expected after 9 p.m. Moscow time (2 p.m. ET) on Sunday.

The participation rate in the elections exceeded 70% of eligible voters, according to the Election Commission, and the percentage of voters in the last hours exceeded the final participation rate in 2018, according to official figures.

Putin's re-election would extend his rule until at least 2030 Constitutional changes In 2020, he will then be able to run again and possibly remain in power until 2036, which would guarantee his place as prime minister. Russia The longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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