Vladimir Putin’s win in Russia’s presidential election was never in doubt – but shocking videos have emerged of alleged ‘ballot-rigging’ during the vote.
Various clips from polling stations in Russia show what appears to be a deliberate effort from officials to rig the vote, that saw Putin cruise to a landslide victory with over 75% of the vote.
CCTV footage allegedly shows official stashing voting slips in ballot boxes, while balloons are deliberately placed in front of the camera as voting takes place in the Siberian region of Kemerovo.
Opposition leaders have blasted the videos – including one that shows a Mother Superior seemingly checking how a group of nuns have voted before placing their cards in the ballot box.
Furious main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny – who was barred from the race due to a fraud conviction which he said was manufactured by the Kremlin – tweeted: ‘Now is the season of Lent. I took it upon myself never to get angry and not to raise my voice. Oh well, I’ll try again next year.’
He had urged voters to boycott the election and sent thousands of observers to polling stations to watch for possible violations.
Ivan Zhdanov, an aide to Mr Navalny, said there were reports of people being bussed to polling stations by their employers.
He said: ‘We would call this the ‘shuttle bus election’. Some organisations, some buses, are bringing massive amounts of people.’
Runner-up Pavel Grudinin said the election was ‘the dirtiest’ since the Soviet Union collapsed.
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He said: ‘Regretfully, Navalny was right. One can vote two or three times, and there are such examples in Moscow region.’
Russian election officials say they are now looking into the alleged incidents of ballot-rigging.
The footage raises questions over just how legitimate the Russian election was – but it will not change the result as Putin rolled to a crushing re-election victory for six more years as Russia’s president.
The election came amid escalating tensions with the West as Moscow was blamed for the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury.
In his first public comments on the poisoning, Putin referred to the allegations against Russia as ‘nonsense’.
Putin addressed thousands of people who rallied outside the Kremlin on Sunday to thank them for their support and promised new achievements.
Speaking to a crowd who attended a pop concert marking his election victory, Putin hailed those who voted for him as a ‘big national team’, adding that ‘we are bound for success’.
He said that the nation needs unity to move forward and urged the audience to ‘think about the future of our great motherland’.
He then led the enthusiastic crowd to chant ‘Russia!’
Results from more than half of precincts showed Putin winning over 75% of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin and ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing far behind with about 13 and 6%, respectively.
Putin’s most vehement foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was barred from running because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated.
Despite his win, Putin must now work out how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to get round Russia’s presidential term limits if he wants to secure power – or remain a powerful voice – in the country’s long-term future.