Russians cast ballots on second day of elections

Russians cast ballots on second day of elections

Voters across Russia cast ballots on Saturday on the second day of an election set to formalise six more years of power for President Vladimir Putin, who faces no serious challengers after crushing political dissent over his nearly 25 years of rule.

The election comes against the backdrop of a ruthless crackdown that has stifled independent media and prominent rights groups. Putin’s fiercest foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic prison in February, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

The 71-year-old Putin faces three token rivals from Kremlin-friendly parties, who have refrained from any criticism of him or his invasion of Ukraine. Putin has cast his war in Ukraine, now in its third year, as an existential battle against the US and other Western powers bent on destroying Russia.

That war was visible on Russia's streets Saturday as Ukrainian drone and missile attacks once again hit the country.

Two people were killed in Ukrainian shelling of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram. Dozens of people have been killed there since the war began.

Elsewhere, a Ukrainian drone attack caused a fire at an oil refinery belonging to Russian oil giant Rosneft in the Samara region, 1,065 kilometres southeast of Moscow, the regional governor said.

In spite of the attacks, analysts say the Kremlin is looking for a high turnout in the elections as a sign that Russians approve of the war to legitimise Putin for another term.