Russia’s presidential election was tainted Sunday by unprecedented pressure on voters to turn out and incidents of suspected ballot box stuffing — a barely democratic exercise that will grant Vladimir Putin another six years of power.
His critics have called the election a farce and urged voters to boycott, but millions of Russians hail the 65-year-old former KGB officer for defending their proud nation from a hostile outside world.
Putin is facing seven challengers on the ballot but the outcome of the vote is pre-ordained, given his high popularity ratings. The major goal for Russian authorities is producing a big turnout that will hand Putin the legitimacy he craves and provide a convincing mandate for his fourth term.
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Sunday’s election is expected to further embolden the Russian president both at home and in world affairs. It could also strengthen his hand if he decides to extend his rule beyond 2024 by abolishing term limits — like neighboring China has just done — or by shifting into another position of power.
Russia’s central election commission calimed its website was the target of an unsuccessful hacking attempt during Sunday’s presidential election.
Commission chair Ella Pamfilova told reporters that it was a DDoS, or distributed denial of service attack, tracked to computers in 15 countries, without naming them.
She said efforts to disrupt the site occurred when voters in Russia’s far east were already casting ballots, but they were deterred by Russian authorities.
As U.S. authorities investigate alleged Russian hacking and other interference in President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, Russian authorities claim that foreign powers are seeking to interfere in Sunday’s vote.
Anger in Ukraine
Security forces are surrounding Russian facilities in Ukraine amid anger over the Ukrainian government’s refusal to allow ordinary Russians to vote for president.
Ukrainian police are guarding the Russian Embassy in Kiev and consular offices in Odessa and other cities.
The Ukrainian government announced that only Russian diplomatic officials would be allowed to cast ballots in Sunday’s vote, which Vladimir Putin is set to win.
Millions of ethnic Russians live in Ukraine but the number of registered Russian voters in Ukraine is unclear.
Ukraine is protesting voting in Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine four years ago. Ukraine is also angry over Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a deadly conflict continues.
Russian authorities are appealing to the United Nations and Council of Europe to intervene, according to Russian news agencies.