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NYC’s Russian voters stood in 4-hour line to cast ballots against Putin – despite believing election was rigged

Hundreds of Russians lined up in front of the Russian General Consulate over the weekend to vote against Vladimir Putin
Hundreds of Russians lined up in front of the Russian General Consulate over the weekend to vote against Vladimir Putin

Hundreds of Russian voters lined up in front of the Russian General Consulate over the weekend to cast their ballots against Vladimir Putin in the country’s presidential election as part of a global protest against his war-mongering regime.

The line in front of the building at 9 East 91st St. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side stretched for over a thousand feet around the block at midday Sunday. Anti-Kremlin voters waited for up to four hours to cast their ballots against the current president — despite expressing doubts about the legitimacy of the election.

Hundreds of Russian voters queued outside of the Russian General Consulate in a global protest against the current government, overwhelming the polling site. Alyona Uvarova
Hundreds of Russian voters queued outside of the Russian General Consulate in a global protest against the current government, overwhelming the polling site. Alyona Uvarova

“They will report the number of votes the system needs, but at least the commission will get a feeling that they had to facilitate more votes than usual,” said Stanislav Leonov who – like numerous others who had queued up – fled Russia after the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “This is the result we are all waiting in line for.”

Voters who arrived at 12:30 had to wait for four hours to cast their vote. Alyona Uvarova
Voters who arrived at 12:30 had to wait for four hours to cast their vote. Alyona Uvarova
Several Putin supporters clashed with the anti-Kremlin crowd. Alyona Uvarova
Several Putin supporters clashed with the anti-Kremlin crowd. Alyona Uvarova

From March 15 to March 17, Vladimir Putin faced minimal competition as he ran for his fifth term as president amid what critics have called the harshest crackdown on opposition and free speech in Russia since the Soviet era.

Russia’s electoral authorities barred two candidates who opposed the war in Ukraine from running, leaving Russians to choose between Putin and three pro-Kremlin candidates.

The gathering of anti-Kremlin voters in Manhattan was part of a broader global protest dubbed “Noon Against Putin” on March 17.

The opposition movement urged Russians to flood polling sites at midday, whether to vote against Putin, spoil their ballots, or show solidarity with the symbolic protest. Thousands in Russia and capitals across the globe joined the action.

Navalny-backed initiative was a symbolic protest against the current government and the war in Ukraine. Alyona Uvarova
Navalny-backed initiative was a symbolic protest against the current government and the war in Ukraine. Alyona Uvarova

For several voters in New York City, Alexei Navalny’s death was a wakeup call.

“The murder of Navalny was a point of no return for me, after which I could no longer sit still,” said Olga Stukova who cast her vote in the presidential election for the first time. “I had to come to show that I oppose the system and see others who do too.”

Stukova, like many others, said she would spoil her ballot as a form of protest. Across the globe, Russians sabotaged their ballots with anti-Kremlin slogans, such as “Putin killed Navalny” and “Forgive us, Ukraine”, TV Rain reported. Spoiled ballots would still be reflected in the official count.

Some in the line, however, noted that the New York City polling site lacked privacy, and they feared spoiling their ballot would result in legal trouble upon returning home.

“In the N.Y.C. consulate – and many places in Russia as I’ve read after – they put these weird tables with dividers that barely cover your ballot if you are taller than 5.7 feet,” said Alexandra, a Russian student at New York University, after exiting the polling site.

“A person to the right, left, and straight will easily see what is on your ballot. Additionally, there were two cameras right behind me.”

Some voters spoiled their ballots as a form of protest against the current government and the election. Instagram/tvrain
Some voters spoiled their ballots as a form of protest against the current government and the election. Instagram/tvrain
Among the anti-Kremlin slogans were “Russia will be free” and “Forgive us, Ukraine”, TV Rain reported. Instagram/tvrain
Among the anti-Kremlin slogans were “Russia will be free” and “Forgive us, Ukraine”, TV Rain reported. Instagram/tvrain

With nine spaces to register voters simultaneously, the polling site had five voting tables, only two of which provided privacy from all sides and heights.

Alexandra planned to write Navalny’s name to pay tribute to the opposition leader, but fearing the consulate’s cameras and landing in trouble upon her return to Russia, the young woman cast her vote for Vladislav Davankov, a candidate many in opposition picked as the least evil.

Russia’s opposition leader Navalny endorsed “Noon Against Putin” two weeks before he died in prison last month. He considered the initiative a safe way inside and outside the country to oppose the current president and the war in Ukraine.

Among the midday anti-Kremlin queue were several Putin supporters. Andrey Shandrakov, a USSR emigre who proudly waved the Russian flag and fired up the opposition crowd, said he supported Putin’s mission to “free Russian soils,” referring to Ukraine, and claimed the election was fair.

According to Russia’s officials, 37% of the Russian diaspora cast their vote for Putin in New York City – the exit poll shows only 15% support. Alyona Uvarova
According to Russia’s officials, 37% of the Russian diaspora cast their vote for Putin in New York City – the exit poll shows only 15% support. Alyona Uvarova

On Monday, Putin won Russia’s presidential election with an overwhelming 87.3% support. From Russians voting abroad, 71.2% of voters endorsed the president, according Russian news site RBC, which cited Russia’s Central Election Commission.

While the government’s data reportedly showed 36% support for Putin’s reelection among New York City voters, the independent exit poll showed 15% endorsement for the current president – with 22% polled declining to answer.

Both the reported government’s data and the exit poll confirmed the victory of Davankov on New York City’s polling site, with 37% and 38% votes, respectively.

Across from the consulate, Navalny supporters organized an unofficial “fair election,” where voters could cast a ballot for Putin, Navalny, and the two antiwar candidates barred from running.

“This is a cathartic experience for Russian emigres who were not able to vote either because they rescinded their citizenship or because it was too dangerous for them to enter the building,” said volunteer Anastasia Moryakova, a former Russian citizen.

According to the group, 294 participated in the so-called fair election, with deceased Alexei Navalny securing 80,6% of the votes.