Russian regional vote delivers strong result for Putin amid claims of rigging

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Russia on Sunday wrapped up widely denounced regional and municipal elections, including in regions annexed from Ukraine, delivering strong support for President Vladimir Putin amidst criticism of vote rigging and Kyiv’s push to reclaim its land.

The Council of Europe, Europe’s leading rights group, called the week-long vote a flagrant violation of international law, and Kyiv and its allies say it was an illegal attempt to tighten Moscow’s grip over regions in Ukraine’s south and east.

The overwhelming vote across Russia and in the annexed regions for the dominance of Putin’s United Russia party has delivered on the Kremlin’s long-repeated domestic message that Putin is by far the strongest guarantor of stability.

But in the regions voting, electoral competition was limited, as strong candidates, including some from Russia’s main opposition Communist Party, were blocked from running by authorities.

Stanislav Andreychuk, co-chair of Golos, a voter rights’ group designated a “foreign agent” by the Russian government, said instances of vote rigging in many parts of the country showed that “these are not real elections”.

Andreychuk said his organisation had received reports of opposition candidates being detained, having their cars vandalised, and, in one case, military draft papers being served to election observers.