Updated Mar 17, 2024 - World

Protests against Putin erupt at polls on last day of Russian election

People wait in line outside a polling station in Moscow

People stand in line outside a polling station in Moscow, Russia, on March 17, which marked the last day of the Russian election. Photo: Hannah Wagner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Sunday marked the final day of the Russian election and saw widespread protests against President Vladimir Putin at polling sites in the country and at Russian embassies worldwide.

The big picture: Known as "Noon Against Putin," the late Alexei Navalny supported an initiative that urged voters to go to the polls and either spoil their ballot or vote for a non-Putin candidate at noon on Sunday, both inside and outside of Russia.

  • Long lines began to grow around 12pm local time Sunday at some Russian polling stations, per CNN.
  • Protesters also gathered outside Russian embassies in cities such as Berlin, Milan, Brussels and Paris.
  • Putin claimed victory by a landslide of 87% late Sunday to be elected for a fifth term, which would keep him in power until at least 2030.
A Russian dissident holds a placard reading "Russia: love is different from extremism" while waiting in line in Milan, Italy
A Russian dissident holds a placard reading "Russia: love is different from extremism" while waiting in line in front of the Russian consulate on March 17 in Milan, Italy. Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

By the numbers: More than 85 people in 21 cities were arrested and detained for protesting the elections, per OVD-Info, a Russia-based human rights monitoring group.

Zoom in: Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's widow, took part in the demonstration on Sunday in Berlin.

  • Earlier this month, Navalnaya urged voters to "come to the polling station on the same day and at the same time, March 17 at 12:00. It's your choice what to do next — you can vote for any candidate except Putin."
  • "You can ruin the ballot, you can write Navalny on it in bold letters, and even if you don't see the point in voting at all, you can just come and stand at the polling station and then turn around and go home," she said.
  • "Putin will not be a legitimate president, neither for you and me, nor for the rest of the world," she added.

What he's saying: Putin addressed the protest movement after claiming victory, calling attempts to ruin ballots "not democratic," according to a BBC translation.

  • "No matter who you vote for, that was a good thing — although from what I understand it didn't yield any result," he said.

Flashback: Navalny, Russia's most formidable opposition leader, died suddenly in February while imprisoned in a Siberian penal colony.

  • Following his death, Navalnaya took center stage and vowed to continue her husband's work by widely and publicly opposing Putin's authoritarian rule.
  • Navalny's allies and family have said they suspect high-level Russian authorities were involved in his death.

Go deeper: Putin says he agreed to Navalny prisoner swap days before dissident's death

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of protest arrests and with comment from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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