First Day Of Russia’s Presidential Election Marred By Vandalism, Cyber Attacks

The first day of voting in Russia’s presidential election was marred by acts of vandalism at polling stations Friday, with a series of disruptions including dye being poured into ballot boxes.

Reuters reports that a Molotov cocktail thrown at a polling station in President Vladimir Putin’s home town, and reported cyber attacks with at least nine arrests for pouring dye into ballot boxes and arson attacks.

Vladimir Putin is set to secure another six years in the Kremlin after a three-day vote he has cast as a show of Russians’ loyalty and support for his military assault on Ukraine, now in its third year.

Despite authorities warning that election-day protesters faced heavy punishment, at least nine were arrested for acts of vandalism at polling stations.

In Moscow, a video showed a woman setting a voting booth alight, filling a polling station with smoke, while another showed a woman pouring green dye into a ballot box.

According to the report, four others in the Russian regions of Voronezh, Karachay-Cherkessia and Rostov were detained for similar offences, while in Saint Petersburg and the Siberian region of Khanty-Mansi, women were detained for throwing Molotov cocktails at polling stations.

A man was detained for lighting fireworks inside a polling station in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, while in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, an explosive device was detonated at a voting site.

Millions of Russians cast their ballots across the country’s 11 time zones at the start of a three-day election that is almost certain to hand Putin six more years at the helm of the world’s largest country by territory.

Amid the Ukraine war, the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, Putin, 71, dominates Russia’s political landscape and none of the other three candidates on the ballot paper presents any credible challenge.

Dye was poured into ballot boxes in Moscow, Russian-annexed Crimea, and the Caucasus region of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, according to Russian media, in apparent anti-Kremlin protests.

CCTV footage of one dye-pouring incident showed a young woman depositing her voting slip before calmly pouring a green liquid into the ballot box. A policeman was seen detaining her immediately afterwards.

A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a polling station in St Petersburg, and a 21-year-old woman arrested, the Fontanka news site reported. Arson attempts were recorded at polling stations in Moscow and Siberia.

Russia’s electoral commission chief, Ella Pamfilova, said perpetrators of such acts faced up to five years in prison, and suggested they had been paid for by those seeking to disrupt the vote.

“Listen carefully everyone,” Pamfilova said, before setting out the article in the Criminal Code which dealt with disrupting the work of electoral commissions.

“Especially for all the scumbags who are prepared to destroy the votes of the people because of these pieces of silver,” Pamfilova was quoted as saying by the TASS state news agency.

As of 17:20 Moscow time (1420 GMT), country-wide turnout was high, at around 24.6%. Demand for electronic voting was so high the system was overloaded.

The Kremlin says Putin, in power as president or prime minister since the last day of 1999, will win as he commands broad support for rescuing Russia from post-Soviet chaos and standing up to what it says is an arrogant, hostile West.

Putin had accused Ukraine of aiming to disrupt voting by trying to frighten people and said its actions would not go unpunished.

The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that any attempt to interfere in the election would be considered an act of aggression. Russia’s foreign intelligence service said the United States was planning to meddle.

The electoral commission said there had been over 10,000 attacks on electronic voting systems but that they had endured.

One woman scrawled “Return me my husband” on her ballot paper before burning it, according to videos on social media.

A spokesperson for disqualified presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin said two staffers and one volunteer associated with his campaign were detained on Friday and another activist attacked at a polling station.

More than 114 million Russians are eligible to vote, including in what Moscow calls its “new territories” – four regions of Ukraine that its forces only partly control, but which it has claimed as part of Russia. Ukraine says the staging of elections there is illegal and void.