NYC's Russian voters stood in 4-hour line to cast ballots against Putin

NEWS: NYC’s Russian voters stood in 4-hour line to cast ballots against Putin

Hundreds of Russian voters lined up in front of the Russian General Consulate over the weekend to cast their ballots against Vladimir Putin in the country’s presidential election as part of a global protest against his war-mongering regime.

The line in front of the building at 9 E. 91st. St. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side stretched for more than a thousand feet around the block at midday Sunday.

Anti-Kremlin voters waited for up to four hours to cast their ballots against the current president — despite expressing doubts about the legitimacy of the election.

“They will report the number of votes the system needs, but at least the commission will get a feeling that they had to facilitate more votes than usual,” said Stanislav Leonov who – like numerous others who had queued up – fled Russia to oppose the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “This is the result we are all waiting in line for.”

Hundreds of Russian voters queued outside of the Russian General Consulate in a global protest against the current government, overwhelming the polling site. Alyona Uvarova
Voters who arrived at 12:30 had to wait for four hours to cast their vote. Alyona Uvarova
Several Putin supporters clashed with the anti-Kremlin crowd. Alyona Uvarova

From March 15 to March 17, Vladimir Putin faced minimal competition as he ran for his fifth term as president amid what critics have called the harshest crackdown on opposition and free speech in Russia since the Soviet era.

Russia’s electoral authorities barred two candidates who opposed the war in Ukraine from running, leaving Russians to choose between Putin and three pro-Kremlin candidates.

The gathering of anti-Kremlin voters in Manhattan was part of a broader global protest dubbed “Noon Against Putin” on March 17.

The opposition movement urged Russians to flood polling sites at midday, whether to vote against Putin, spoil their ballots, or show solidarity with the symbolic protest.

Thousands in Russia and capitals across the globe joined the action.

Navalny-backed initiative was a symbolic protest against the current government and the war in Ukraine. Alyona Uvarova

For several voters in New York City, Alexei Navalny’s death was a wakeup call.

“The murder of Navalny was a point of no return for me, after which I could no longer sit still,” said Olga Stukova who cast her vote in the presidential election for the first time. “I had to come to show that I oppose the system and see others who do too.”

Stukova, like many others, said she would spoil her ballot as a form of protest against the status quo.

Russia’s opposition leader Navalny endorsed “Noon Against Putin” two weeks before he died in prison last month.

He considered the initiative a safe way inside and outside the country to oppose the current president and the war in Ukraine.

According to Russia’s officials, 37% of the Russian diaspora cast their vote for Putin in New York City – the exit poll shows only 15% support. Alyona Uvarova

Among the midday anti-Kremlin queue were several Putin supporters.

Andrey Shandrakov, a USSR emigre who proudly waved the Russian flag and fired up the opposition crowd, said he supported Putin’s mission to “free Russian soils,” referring to Ukraine, and claimed the election was fair.

On Monday, Putin won Russia’s presidential election with an overwhelming 87% support.

While Russia’s officials reported 37% support for Putin’s reelection among New York City voters, the independent exit poll showed 15% endorsement for the current president – with 22% polled declining to answer. 

Across from the consulate, Navalny supporters organized an unofficial “fair election,” where voters could cast a ballot for Putin, Navalny, and the two antiwar candidates barred from running.

“This is a cathartic experience for Russian emigres who were not able to vote either because they rescinded their citizenship or because it was too dangerous for them to enter the building,” said volunteer Anastasia Moryakova.

According to the group, 294 participated in the so-called fair election, with deceased Alexei Navalny securing 81% of the votes.

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