The third and final day of the presidential elections in Russia begins

This Sunday, Russia celebrates the third and final day of the presidential elections, in which more than half of the 112 million Russians who voted have already taken part.

In this country with 11 time zones, schools opened at 8:00 p.m. GMT on Saturday in the Kamchatka Peninsula and closed at 6:00 p.m. GMT on Sunday in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. The first official preliminary results will then be announced.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), more than 50% of voters exercised their right to vote on Friday and Saturday, while 2.6 million did so in advance, including many soldiers and residents of Ukrainian territories annexed by Russia.

The first 24 hours of voting were marked by around twenty incidents, including the throwing of Molotov cocktails at polling stations and the spraying of ballot boxes with ink and paint, invalidating several hundred ballots.

The Central Election Commission said it was pleased that neither these incidents nor the “unprecedented” cyberattacks nor the raids on the Ukrainian border that left several people dead prevented Russians from voting en masse in the eighth presidential election in that country’s history to take part in the election in 1991.

While sociologists admit that they did not expect such a high turnout, the opposition suspects that the authorities resorted to administrative measures when they forced public sector employees, the electoral chamber of Kremlin candidate Vladimir Putin, to vote.

While the CEC and the Russian Ombudsman denied the existence of irregularities, independent observers reported some cases of election manipulation.

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Putin, who has a voting intention of over 80% according to official polls, could claim his biggest election victory since he came to power in 2000.

His three rivals are the representative of the New People Party, Vladislav Davankov, and the communist Nikolai Kharitonov, who have 6% support among respondents, and the ultranationalist Leonid Slutski, who has around 5% support.

Meanwhile, despite the prosecutor’s warning, the Kremlin opposition is sticking to its call for “lunch without Putin,” which involves going to the doors of polling stations at 12 p.m. on Sunday to express their rejection of the Kremlin leader , an action supported by opposition leader Alexei Navalni before his death and now by his widow Yulia.

Around 4.5 million voters can vote in the areas occupied by the Russian army in the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Moscow (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia).

Ukraine described the elections in these regions, which make up a fifth of the country’s area, as a “farce”, a vote that UN Secretary-General António Guterres also condemned.

After Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison, his co-religionists, who blame Putin directly, called on the West not to recognize the election results.

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