Britain accuses Vladimir Putin of acting as modern-day Stalin after sham poll

Britain accuses Vladimir Putin of acting as modern-day Stalin after sham poll

Britain slammed Vladimir Putin’s “stolen” election victory and vowed unstinting support for Ukraine after the Russian dictator put himself on course to overtake Stalin’s time in power.

The Kremlin declared that Putin had emerged from three days of tightly choreographed voting with 87 per cent of the ballot. Any realistic candidates standing in his way to a fifth term were jailed, denied the chance to run or — as in the case of Alexei Navalny — died in mysterious circumstances.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps accused the Russian leader of behaving like “a modern-day Stalin”. He tweeted: “Putin has stolen another election, but he will not steal Ukraine. The UK will work with our allies to stop this thief by increasing our collective support for Ukraine. As history shows, we have to stop dictators & autocrats, or they go on to steal even more.” Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said today: “Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media and then crowns himself the winner. This is not democracy.”

A White House national security council spokesman said the elections were “obviously not free nor fair” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin was “simply sick for power and is doing everything to rule forever”, insisting he should instead be on trial for war crimes in The Hague. But Putin won praise from the leaders of China, North Korea and Venezuela.

Putin, 71, came to power at the end of 1999 and has changed the law to allow him to run again, serving until 2036. That sets him up to overtake Stalin to become Russia’s longest-serving leader since Catherine the Great in the 1700s.

Addressing supporters in Moscow, the president mocked US democracy in a reference to the court battles facing Donald Trump — who is promising a softer line with the Kremlin than Joe Biden if elected.

Putin vowed to prioritise resolving tasks associated with what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and to strengthen the military. In his first comments on Mr Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony, Putin said the opposition leader’s passing had been a “sad event” and claimed he was ready to do a prisoner swap involving Russians in Western jails.

With limited options to register their opposition, many Russians heeded a call by the Navalny organisation to turn at polling stations at noon. The late leader’s widow Yulia queued at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, going in to write his name on the ballot and saying Putin was “a killer, he’s a gangster”.