The Russians started to come to the polls today to vote in the presidential election they are expected to secure a new term for Vladimir Putin, who has virtually no rival, at a time when Ukraine, faced two years ago with a Russian attack, is multiplying its attacks against Russia.

Polling stations opened today at 08:00 (local time, 22:00 Thursday Greek time) in the Kamchatka Peninsula and Chukotka, the two remote regions in Russia’s far east. And they will close on Sunday at 20:00 (local and Greek time) in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave within the EU.

At 08:00 (Greece time), polling stations had opened across the country, which spans eleven hourly zones.

Voting will take place over three days, including the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine or even Transnistria, the pro-Russian separatist territory of Moldova.

Shortly before voting began, Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for 24 years, called on his countrymen not to “deviate from the path” and vote “patriotically” in these “difficult” times.

The outgoing head of state faces three candidates, who oppose neither the attack on Ukraine nor the crackdown that has wiped out all opposition and culminated in the death in prison in mid-February of the main opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.

The only opposition who tried to be a candidate, Boris Nadezdin saw his candidacy rejected.


Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who vowed to continue his battle, called on Russians to protest by going to vote for any candidate other than Putin.

He also called on Russians, who support the opposition, to go to the polling stations at the same time, Sunday at 12:00 noon, to show that they are many.

The appeal prompted a warning from Moscow’s prosecutor’s office, which underlined yesterday, Thursday, that “sanctions may be imposed under current legislation” for any form of protest.

The Kremlin’s crackdown on critics has clearly accelerated since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine in February 2022. Authorities have jailed most dissidents and thousands of other Russians, while driving many others into exile.

Vladimir Putin’s victory in this vote, which is considered certain, will allow him to remain in power until 2030. Thanks to a 2020 constitutional revision, he will be able to run and remain in power until 2036, when he will be 84 years old.

The vote has already been criticized by the United States, which denounced the “sham elections organized in the occupied Ukrainian territories”. Ukrainian diplomacy called for the result of this vote to be rejected, calling it a “hoax”.

Multiplication of attacks

In Russian-occupied Mariupol in southern Ukraine, election officials improvised polling stations opened today on small tables in the street and on car hoods.

Banners were flown with the ‘V’ in red, white and blue, one of the army’s symbols used to signal support for the Russian offensive.

Ukraine, for its part, has in the last three days intensified the pressure on Russian border regions by multiplying drone attacks and armed raids by Russian pro-Ukrainian volunteers.

The Russian national guard announced yesterday, Thursday at noon, that together with the army and border guards, they repelled the attack of a group of “saboteurs” near the village of Tiotkino, in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine.

At the same time, drone attacks are multiplying in the Russian border regions, but also at a distance of hundreds of kilometers from the front, with Kiev promising retaliation for the bombings that Ukraine has been suffering for two years.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced today that it had destroyed five Ukrainian drones and nine missiles over the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine. Two other drones were shot down over the Lipetsk region, which is about 400 kilometers south of Moscow.

Today three children were also killed by a Ukrainian strike in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian forces, according to its pro-Russian mayor Alexei Kulemzin.