Protesters Furious as Putin Wins Re-Election

( – Despite protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin, 71, claimed victory in the country’s March 17 election, securing another six-year term as president.

First elected in 1999, the victory makes Putin Russia’s longest-serving leader in over 200 years, overtaking Josef Stalin.

A record 77.44 percent of voters turned out to vote in the election, the highest in Russia’s modern history. Despite exit polls showing Putin winning a record 88 percent of the vote in the election, protests against him erupted at polling sites across the country.

Before his Feb. 16 death, the late Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent opponent, had urged citizens to attend a “Noon against Putin” protest against Putin’s government. It is unclear how many of Russia’s 114 million voters participated in the protests.

In a video uploaded by the Russian-language outlet Medusa, people are seen throwing Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at polling sites, pouring ink in ballot boxes, and setting fire to ballot boxes in some regions across the country.

Most of the incidents took place in the regions of Karachay-Cherkessia and Rostov, according to Russian Central Election Commission Deputy Chair Nikolai Bulaev. However, according to officials, ballot boxes in Voronezh and Moscow were also covered in ink.

According to the Kremlin, Ukraine spearheaded the stunts, with Bulaev saying “clearly” the protesters have been “promised money and rewards.”

According to the Russian outlet Fontanka, the woman accused of throwing the Molotov cocktail had allegedly told police that she was promised money by the “Ukrainian Telegram channel” for creating the fire.

Despite Putin’s record-breaking victory, leaders from the U.S. and other Western countries called Russia’s election a sham. Analysts have said the election was a sham because independent monitoring organizations could not observe the election, and online polling meant the vote was susceptible to potentially being manipulated.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said nothing about the election was “free or fair” but resisted calls from Russia’s opposition not to recognize Putin as the winner.

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