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Russian President Vladimir Putin clinched another term in power following a tightly managed presidential election over the weekend, a victory that puts him on a path to catching up to Soviet leader Josef Stalin as Russia’s longest-serving leader, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Exit polls showed the incumbent secured nearly 88 percent of the vote, according to the Russian Central Election Commission. Election officials said Monday that turnout was 77 percent, surpassing the 67.7 percent in the 2018 polls.

The victory and voter turnout highlight widespread support, although skepticism remains about the legitimacy of the process, opponents noted.

Many of Putin’s credible challengers were sidelined from the 2024 race, while opposition figures were silenced through various measures, such as imprisonment and restrictions on press freedom.

Despite threats of arrests, there were reports of sabotage, such as pouring dye into ballot boxes, and protests against the vote, the Washington Post noted. At least 85 individuals were detained across 21 cities, according to Russian rights-monitoring organizations.

Meanwhile, Russians protested Putin by forming long lines to vote against him at noon Sunday — answering the call of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The election took place a few weeks after the sudden death of Navalny, who was serving a prison sentence at an Arctic penal colony. The circumstances behind his death remain unclear and many of Navalny’s supporters accuse Putin of orchestrating it.

On Monday, Putin made the first public comments on Navalny’s death – which some observers believe to be the first time the long-term president has uttered his main opponent’s name, according to CNBC.

The Russian leader called Navalny’s passing a “sad event” and claimed that he had been prepared to involve the Kremlin critic in a prisoner swap with the West.

In a post-election address to his supporters, Putin pledged to defend Russia in its fight against Ukraine, as well as proposed new initiatives to support veterans and bolster the country’s economy. However, critics dismissed his promises as empty rhetoric, suggesting they’re aimed at maintaining power rather than addressing societal concerns.

Analysts explained that Putin’s plans will include a continuation of the conflict in Ukraine, portraying it as a nationalistic endeavor against Western influence. They also predicted further crackdowns on dissent, increased militarization, and economic policies aimed at sustaining Russia’s stability amid ongoing Western sanctions.

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