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Russian voters, answering Navalny's call, protest as Putin extends his rule

MOSCOW - On the final day of a presidential election with only one possible result, Russians protested Vladimir Putin's authoritarian hold on power by forming long lines to vote against him at noon Sunday - answering the call of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and undercutting preliminary results Sunday night that led Putin to claim a landslide victory.

Russia's Central Election Commission, which routinely bars any real challengers from running, reported late Sunday that Putin had received more than 87 percent of the vote with 75 percent of ballots counted. Putin quickly claimed a fifth term in office, extending his rule until at least 2030. He said he would continue his war against Ukraine where "in some areas our guys are simply cutting the enemy to pieces right now."

Russia's elections have long been widely condemned as neither free nor fair and failing to meet basic democratic standards, with the Kremlin approving opposition candidates and tightly controlling media access. That meant Putin's victory was preordained. The turnout of protesters in wartime Russia, by contrast, was far less certain. Navalny had urged the midday action before dying suddenly in prison last month.


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