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Putin speaks to the head of Russia's electoral commission via video link. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department condemned the Russian government's crackdown on opposition groups during this weekend's parliamentary elections, saying in a statement Monday that the vote "took place under conditions not conducive to free and fair proceedings."

Why it matters: President Vladimir Putin's ruling party retained its supermajority through a vote marred by widespread irregularities, reports of ballot-stuffing and restrictions on the Russian strongman's most vocal critics.

The big picture: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived an assassination attempt by Russian security forces last year, is currently serving out a three-year prison sentence on charges that the West has condemned as politically motivated.

  • Organizations affiliated with Navalny have been outlawed and declared "extremist groups" by the Russian government. Apple and Google deleted Navalny's tactical voting app from their app stores last week after the Kremlin threatened to arrest their employees.
  • Major gains by opposition groups were erased Monday after the electoral commission added millions of online votes, a delayed count that drew calls of foul play for its lack of transparency.

What to watch: The ruling United Russia party will hold onto two-thirds of the seats in the lower house of parliament ahead of the country's presidential election in 2024, when Putin will seek an unprecedented fifth term after a constitutional reform.

Go deeper

Republicans scuttle voting rights proposal

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The Senate failed to advance a new voting rights bill in a 49-51 vote Wednesday, after Republicans successfully filibustered the bill.

Why it matters: The Freedom to Vote Act is the latest attempt by Democrats to counter Republican-led efforts to pass state laws restricting voting access. This marks the third time this year that Republicans have been able to scuttle voting rights legislation, the New York Times noted.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.