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Yesterday’s presidential elections in Russia was a sad day for democracy and as far away from free and fair as they come.

The result of the elections, that saw Vladimir Putin secure yet another term with about 76 percent of the vote, was anticipated and the only at least to some extent uncertain part was what the final turnout would be. The main opposition politician, Aleksei Navalny, was not permitted to run in the elections due to an embezzlement conviction that he has disputed as a politically motivated witch hunt by the Kremlin.

Observers from the opposition as well as international observers have reported several irregularities including lack of real competition, stuffing of ballot boxes, forced voting and distraction of the election observers and polling station officials. To even pretend that these elections were conducted in a free and fair way is to ridicule democracy.

“In short, these were not democratic elections, this was a circus” said LYMEC Bureau Member Sergiu Boghean, who participated in an election observing mission to Saint Petersburg organised by the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY). “In total, there were eight candidates and most of them were just puppets since Navalny was not allowed to enter the race.”

“What needs to be said out loud is that there is no such thing as real elections in Russia, but rather a vote that will allow Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2024. These elections must be commented on not as free elections, truthful and representative, but as a vote that aims to blind us, to prove that Vladimir Putin enjoys popular legitimacy. The generation of 18-year-olds who voted for the first time in these elections have only ever seen Putin in power. What choice can they make?”

These were also the first Russian elections held in occupied Crimea after the region was illegally annexed from Ukraine. LYMEC joins and supports our Ukrainian member organisation European Youth of Ukraine in its resolute protest on the regular violation of the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

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