Moscow, Sep 9 (EFE).- Russian president Vladimir Putin on Saturday urged citizens to turn out in large numbers in local and regional elections being held this weekend.
Polling stations opened on Friday across the country, as well as in the four Ukrainian territories that Moscow illegally annexed last year.
Putin voted in the Moscow mayoral elections after publicly endorsing the current mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, as a candidate of the ruling United Russia party after previously running as an independent.
Four other candidates are running for mayor, but it is assumed that Sobyanin will be reelected for another five years.
Amid the prevailing apathy in the capital, with hardly any posters of the candidates, the almost complete absence of debates and with most of the opposition in jail or exile, Putin stressed that the elections are “a direct expression of the will of citizens, an opportunity to influence the future of their city, town and country as a whole (…)”.
Elections are being held for the first time in Russian-occupied areas in the Ukrainian oblasts of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk.
The five parties represented in the Russian Parliament, which all vote with United Russia on important issues, are participating in the elections, with which Russia aims to consolidate the annexation, although there is no opposition.
Ukraine has called the polls in the occupied territories a “sham,” while the US, the European Union, Nato, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, Japan and Spain have condemned the “farce”. EFE