Putin urges Russians to vote at 'difficult' time for country

AFP , Thursday 14 Mar 2024

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged Russians to vote in elections this weekend that come at a "difficult" time for the country, as the long-serving leader seeks to yet again cement his hold on power.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russia s state agency Sputnik on March 14, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses voters ahead of the 2024 Russian presidential election at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP


Putin is set to secure another six-year term this weekend in a vote the Kremlin says will show society is fully behind his assault on Ukraine.

"I am convinced: you realize what a difficult period our country is going through, what complex challenges we are facing in almost all areas," Putin said in an address to Russians on the eve of the vote.

"And in order to continue to respond to them with dignity and successfully overcome difficulties, we need to continue to be united and self-confident," he added.

Victory in the March 15-17 contest will allow him to stay in the Kremlin until at least 2030, longer than any Russian leader since Catherine the Great in the eighteenth century.

"Let me be blunt: participation in the elections today is a manifestation of patriotic feelings," Putin added in the address.

He also hailed that the vote will take place in four recently occupied territories of Ukraine as well as the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

"Our fighters at the front will also vote. They, showing courage and heroism, defend the Fatherland and, participating in the elections, set an example for all of us," the Russian leader said.

The poll comes at a time of high confidence for the former KGB agent.

Russia's troops in Ukraine have chalked up their first battlefield gains in months and Putin's most strident critic, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison colony last month.

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