Russian President President Vladimir Putin won the country’s presidential election, despite widespread protests, international condemnation, and allegations of electoral manipulation.

Putin secured 87% of the vote, according to state-run exit polls.

The war in Ukraine featured prominently in Putin’s victory address, where he emphasised the need to secure borders against alleged raids by pro-Ukrainian military units. Putin highlighted his administration’s focus on resolving the conflict and strengthening Russia’s defence capabilities as key priorities for his new term.

Addressing concerns over potential conflicts with NATO, Putin acknowledged the possibility in the modern geopolitical landscape, warning of the catastrophic implications of a direct confrontation. “A full-scale third world war” could ensue, he cautioned, stressing that such an outcome would be in nobody’s interest.

For the first time, Putin publicly addressed the death of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, claiming to have approved a proposed exchange for Russian prisoners in the West shortly before Navalny’s demise. Expressing resignation over Navalny’s fate, Putin remarked, “Unfortunately, what happened happened.”

Putin’s main opponent, Communist party candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, trailed far behind in second place. The government boasted of the highest turnout in history, claiming 74% of the electorate cast their votes. This turnout figure is significantly higher than previous elections.

Critics pointed to the Kremlin’s electoral machinery, which appeared to be geared towards boosting Putin’s share of the vote and turnout to near farcical levels.

Despite efforts to manipulate the outcome, opposition organised long queues forming at polling stations in Moscow and other cities. Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, urged supporters to participate in the “noon against Putin” campaign. Navalny’s team urged voters to spoil their ballot papers, write “Alexei Navalny” across the voting slip, or vote for one of the three candidates standing against Putin, despite being seen as Kremlin “puppets.” This call sparked a sudden surge in queues at numerous polling stations across Russia’s major cities at midday.

Russian prosecutors threatened participants in the “noon against Putin” action with five years in prison.

Leonid Volkov, an aide to Navalny, reported thousands of queues at polling stations across the country, despite facing an attack with a hammer in Vilnius last week. Ruslan Shaveddinov of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation claimed that they have shown Russia and the world that Putin does not represent Russia.

In the lead-up to Putin’s victory, Russia made headlines for disqualifying anti-war candidates and launching an extensive get-out-the-vote campaign, particularly targeting state workers.

Critics pointed out that Putin faced no meaningful contest as authorities barred two candidates who opposed the war in Ukraine. While three other candidates were permitted to participate, their presence was largely seen as an attempt to add legitimacy to the election rather than directly challenge Putin’s authority.

The election also witnessed long queues forming at noon in locations popular among Russian émigrés, such as Berlin, Yerevan, London, and Phuket. This phenomenon comes in the wake of hundreds of thousands of Russians estimated to have left the country since the start of the Ukraine invasion, seeking refuge abroad.

Reports emerged of voter detentions and arrests in various cities, including Kazan, Moscow, and St Petersburg, as individuals protested against Putin’s rule.

Russia’s election commissioner, Ella Pamfilova, drew criticism for labeling those who spoiled ballots as “bastards,” while former President Dmitry Medvedev issued warnings of treason sentences of up to 20 years for those responsible.

According to Russia’s interior ministry, a total of 155 administrative charges and 61 criminal cases were reported during the elections, with 21 cases specifically related to obstructing voters’ rights. Stanislav Andreychuk, co-chair of the Golos independent election watchdog, condemned the pressure exerted on voters by law enforcement, describing it as reaching absurd levels.

Andreychuk highlighted police actions such as checking ballots before they were cast, as particularly examples of interference in the voting process.

Western countries, including the United States, condemned the elections as neither free nor fair, citing Putin’s imprisonment of political opponents and the prevention of others from running against him. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Putin of being “addicted to power,” dismissing the Russian elections as an imitation without legitimacy. He called for Putin to face trial in The Hague. The German foreign ministry denounced the Russian “pseudo-election” and criticised Putin’s authoritarian rule, censorship, repression, and violence.

Putin, however, dismissed it as anticipated during a speech at his campaign headquarters. He rebuffed detractors, accusing them of attempting to block Russia’s progress and development.