Putin extends rule in preordained Russian election after harshest crackdown since Soviet era

File Photo Photo Courtesy: AP

Kathmandu: President Vladimir Putin extended his reign over Russia in a landslide election whose outcome was never in doubt, declaring Monday his determination to advance deeper into Ukraine and dangling new threats against the West.

After the harshest crackdown on dissent since Soviet times, it was clear from the earliest returns that Putin’s nearly quarter-century rule would continue with a fifth term that grants him six more years in power. Still, Russians heeded a call to protest Putin’s repression and his war in Ukraine by showing up at polling stations at noon on Sunday.

With all the precincts counted Monday, election officials said Putin had secured a record number of votes — an unsurprising development underlining the Russian leader’s total control of the country’s political system. Western leaders denounced the election as a sham.

Putin has led Russia as president or prime minister since December 1999, a tenure marked by international military aggression and an increasing intolerance for dissent. At the end of his fifth term, Putin would be the longest-serving Russian leader since Catherine the Great, who ruled during the 18th century.

Emboldened by his sweeping victory, Putin announced an intention to carve out a buffer zone in Ukraine to protect Russia from cross-border shelling and attacks. Asked if an open clash could erupt between Russia and NATO, Putin responded curtly by saying: “Everything is possible in today’s world,” adding: “it’s clear to everyone that it will put us a step away from full-scale World War III.”

News Source: AP