Western leaders criticize Russian elections as Putin allies celebrate his sixth term

European foreign ministries decry vote as farcical, claiming it was ‘neither free nor fair’

A woman votes in Russia's presidential election at a polling station in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, amid the Russia-Ukraine war on March 16, 2024 (Credit: Stringer/ AFP).
A woman votes in Russia's presidential election at a polling station in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, amid the Russia-Ukraine war on March 16, 2024 (Credit: Stringer/ AFP).

PARIS, France — Friends and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin were quick to congratulate him on his election win but Western leaders denounced what they called an illegal election.

Beijing congratulated Putin, saying, “China and Russia are each other’s largest neighbors and comprehensive strategic cooperative partners in the new era.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said President Xi Jinping and Putin “will continue to maintain close exchanges, lead the two countries to continue to uphold longstanding good-neighborly friendship, deepen comprehensive strategic coordination.”

Former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev responded long before the final results were due to be announced, saying on Telegram: “I congratulate Vladimir Putin on his splendid victory in the election.”

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said: “The Serb people welcomed with joy the victory of President Putin, for they see in him a great statesman and a friend on whom we can always count and who will watch over our people.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said: “Our older brother has triumphed, which bodes well for the world.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking on a visit to his campaign headquarters after a presidential election in Moscow, Russia, early Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the result as illegitimate. “Everyone in the world understands that this person, like many others throughout history, has become sick with power and will stop at nothing to rule forever,” he said.

“There is no evil he would not do to maintain his personal power. And no one in the world would have been safeguarded from this.”

Britain’s foreign minister David Cameron said the “illegal” elections featured “a lack of choice for voters and no independent OSCE monitoring,” adding: “This is not what free and fair elections look like.”

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the “elections were neither free nor fair.”

“We are continuing to work for a just peace that will bring Russia to put an end to the war of aggression against Ukraine, in accordance with international law.”

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky called the election a “farce and parody.” He said: “This was the Russian presidential election that showed how this regime suppresses civil society, independent media, opposition.”

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