Russia: protesters detained amid 'farce' election

Russian human rights monitor OVD-Info  reported March 17 that at least 65 people in 16 cities were detained in connection with the "Noon Against Putin" protest, an initiative organized by the opposition, calling for voters to cast their ballots against incumbent President Vladimir Putin at noon that day. Russians gathered at the appointed time outside several polling stations.

Independent news outlet Mediazona also reported attacks on polling stations, with protesters setting fire to ballot boxes or spilling paint over them. OVD-Info said that two women were jailed in connection with these acts. Additionally, a protestor was arrested for allegedly writing the slogan "NO TO WAR" on her ballot, while an election monitor was detained for wearing a t-shirt with the image of Alexei Navalny. 

The Noon Against Putin call was issued by opposition politician Maxim Reznik and supported by Navalny, whose death in prison in February prompted outrage both within Russia and internationally. The initiative did not endorse any of Putin's three Kremlin-approved challengers, but simply called for casting a vote against Putin.

Navalny posted on X (formerly Twitter) days before his death that the protest initiative would "be a strong demonstration of national sentiment." He added: "The 'Noon Against Putin' action perfectly unites all the components. Voting, agitation, physical presence, and solidarity with those who will be with you at the polling station at that time."

The presidential election entered its final day on March 17. Putin was widely expected to win re-election, as major opposition figures were disqualified from running.

From Jurist, March 17. Used with permission.

Note: There were also long lines at noon outside Russian embassies in the US, UK, Germany, the Baltic republics, and several other coutrnies, as exiled Russians demonstrated their repudiation of the "farce" elections. (The Guardian) The predicted landslide for Putin was delivered, with results giving him more than 87% of the vote. (BBC News)

See our last report on the crackdown on dissent in Russia, and the artifices used to exclude real opposition candidates and control the election. Note that in 2020, Vladimir Putin pushed through changes to the Russian constitution essentially allowing him to remain in power indefinitely.