Updated March 17th, 2024 at 19:36 IST

Residents in Russia's Belgorod Show Up to Vote Despite Shelling

Putin described the attacks as an attempt by Ukraine to frighten residents.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Russian presidential election is all but certain to extend Vladimir Putin’s rule by six more years. | Image:AP
Advertisement

Russian state TV channel RU-RTR aired on Sunday footage of Belgorod residents voting amid Ukrainian shelling on the border-adjacent city. The strike killed a 16-year-old girl on Sunday and injured her father, according to the local governor, who also reported two deaths from Ukrainian attacks the previous day.

Putin described the attacks as an attempt by Ukraine to frighten residents and derail Russia’s presidential election, saying they "won’t be left unpunished.” Western leaders have derided the election as a travesty of democracy.

Advertisement

Russians crowded outside polling stations at midday Sunday on the last day of a three-day presidential election, apparently heeding an opposition call to protest against President Vladimir Putin, who is poised to extend his rule of nearly a quarter century for six more years after a relentless crackdown on dissent.

The election that began Friday has taken place in a tightly controlled environment where there are no real alternatives to Putin, no public criticism of him or his war in Ukraine. Putin’s fiercest political foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison last month, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

Advertisement

Navalny’s associates have urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to protest by coming to the polls at noon on Sunday, a strategy endorsed by Navalny shortly before his death. Team Navalny described it as a success, releasing pictures and videos of people crowding near polling stations in cities across Russia around noon.

The 71-year-old Russian leader faces three token rivals from Kremlin-friendly parties who have refrained from any criticism of his 24-year rule or his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Putin has boasted of Russian battlefield successes in the run-up to the vote, but a massive Ukrainian drone attack across Russia early Sunday sent a reminder of challenges faced by Moscow.

Advertisement

The Russian Defense Ministry reported downing 35 Ukrainian drones overnight, including four near the Russian capital. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said there were no casualties or damage.

Russia’s wartime economy has proven resilient, expanding despite bruising Western sanctions. The Russian defense industry has served as a key growth engine, working around the clock to churn out missiles, tanks and ammunition.

Advertisement

Voting is taking place at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine, and online. More than 60% of eligible voters had cast ballots as of early Sunday.

(The Associated Press)

Advertisement

Published March 17th, 2024 at 19:28 IST