After Putin's re-election: Congratulations on the "extraordinary victory": Only autocrats congratulate the Kremlin boss

After a presidential election in Russia that was criticized as a farce, the power apparatus will celebrate Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin as the landslide winner this Monday.

After Putin's re-election: Congratulations on the "extraordinary victory": Only autocrats congratulate the Kremlin boss

After a presidential election in Russia that was criticized as a farce, the power apparatus will celebrate Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin as the landslide winner this Monday. After 98 percent of the ballot papers were counted, the 71-year-old, who has been in power for around a quarter of a century, received more than 87 percent, according to the electoral commission.

Two years after the start of Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine, this is a record result, which, according to observers, was only achieved through repression, coercion and fraud. Even before the three-day vote began last Friday, preparations for a big victory celebration had begun on Red Square in Moscow.

On Sunday evening, Putin thanked his compatriots for taking part in the presidential election. "We are a united team, all Russian citizens who came to the polling stations and voted," Putin said in a speech to his campaign team that was broadcast on state television. The election results showed Russians' "confidence" in his leadership.

Several authoritarian states congratulated the newly confirmed Kremlin chief. "With more than 87 percent (of the vote), Putin has completely won the war against the empire of the collective West," Russian state news agency Tass quoted Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro as saying. Maduro, who has ruled Venezuela in an authoritarian manner since 2013 and is seeking re-election in the summer, described the victory of his "older brother" as a good sign for the whole world.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega also spoke of a triumph that would contribute to stability and a better future for humanity. The elections themselves were exemplary and calm, said Ortega. Maduro also published a photo of himself with Putin via the online service X (formerly Twitter). With the post he congratulated the Kremlin leader and described the vote as an “impeccable electoral process.”

Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled the Central Asian former Soviet republic since the early 1990s and has therefore been in office longer than Putin, spoke of a convincing victory for the Russian president. He hopes for the further development of bilateral relations, according to a statement from the Rakhmon press service.

According to a report, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will not congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his further term in office, as is usual in such cases. "There will be no letter to Putin," said Steinmeier's spokeswoman Cerstin Gammelin on Sunday evening in response to a request from the Berlin "Tagesspiegel".

Steinmeier had previously released a statement in which he said that on election day he was thinking "of the people in Russia who are fighting for freedom and democracy and who live in constant danger from Putin's regime." “These brave ones” would not be forgotten. Steinmeier's spokeswoman also wrote about "so-called presidential elections in Russia" on the online service X on Sunday. In 2018, Steinmeier congratulated Putin on his re-election.

Like Ukraine, Poland has criticized the vote as "not legal". "Russia's presidential election is not legal, free and fair," said the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw on Sunday evening. The election was held “under severe repression” and in occupied parts of Ukraine in violation of international law.

The vote was accompanied by a remarkable wave of protests. In addition, numerous cases were documented in which employees of state-owned companies were pressured to vote and in some cases even asked to photograph their completed ballot papers. Critics also complained that the online process in particular was easy to manipulate. It was also documented how masses of pre-filled ballot papers were stuffed into ballot boxes.

In addition, of the 114 million people Moscow called to vote, more than 4.5 million live in the four Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, which Russia annexed in violation of international law during the war. Elections are illegal there and are not internationally recognized.

Observers also classified the vote, which was accompanied by protests, as undemocratic because no real opposition candidates were allowed. Not only were Putin's three competitors all aligned with the Kremlin, but they were also considered to have no chance at all from the start.

In addition, there is no freedom of assembly in Russia and the Kremlin-controlled media is in line. Independent media are politically persecuted. Dissenters who criticize Putin's war against Ukraine or the power apparatus risk punishment and even imprisonment.

For all of these reasons, on the last day of the election, thousands of people across Russia defied the state's attempts at intimidation and took part in a silent resistance action: at exactly 12 noon local time, they gathered in front of their respective election offices in many cities under the motto "Lunch against Putin". They wanted to express their dissatisfaction and show that they were against the war. Although the action was peaceful and calm, at least 85 people were arrested by evening, according to civil rights activists.

There were also numerous protests abroad in front of Russian embassies and consulates. The widow of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, Yulia Navalny, who recently died in a prison camp, appeared unexpectedly in Berlin. She also entered the embassy - and then declared that she had written her late husband's name on the ballot paper.