Amid wartime repression, pro-Putin candidates sweep to victory in regional and local elections.

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Against a backdrop of tightening press freedom and repression amid the war in Ukraine, Russians voted overwhelmingly for pro-Kremlin candidates in regional and municipal elections over the weekend, according to results published on Monday.

Candidates nominated by the ruling United Russia Party or those loyal to the Kremlin won races for heads of all of the 14 Russian regions where elections were held, according to Russia’s Central Electoral Commission. United Russia, the party of President Vladimir V. Putin, also won a majority in six regional legislatures where voting occurred, the commission said.

In the city of Moscow, where lawmakers were up for election in most municipalities, more than 77 percent of seats went to pro-Kremlin candidates, according to Tass, a Russian state news agency.

Many anti-government politicians have fled the country. Some have been sentenced to prison terms for publicly criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Although Mr. Putin has dominated Russian politics for more than two decades, he has long used elections that carry a veneer of competitiveness to try to legitimize his rule. And while the elections are often rife with fraud, they typically offer an opening for the political opposition to express discontent.

In some instances, especially at the relatively low level of municipal councils, candidates who have been critical of the Kremlin were able to get elected. And on Monday, already-serving municipal deputies from 18 councils in Moscow and St. Petersburg signed a petition calling on Mr. Putin to resign. The petition came after a municipal council in St. Petersburg last week called on the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to investigate Mr. Putin for treason over his decision to invade Ukraine. Those deputies have been charged by police with discrediting the Russian army, an administrative offense.

Mr. Putin’s grip on Russia’s political system has held largely because of his policymakers’ ability to maintain relative economic stability. The elections this weekend were an early test of whether the economic upheaval caused by Western sanctions stemming from Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has had an effect on voters.

They took place in the climate of almost total censorship of the mainstream press, making it hard to gauge people’s true attitudes toward the government. Following the invasion in February, Mr. Putin tightened media laws, forcing the few remaining liberal news outlets to shut down.

The campaigning and voting periods were marred by multiple violations, according to a report by Golos, a Russian elections watchdog, which cited official intimidation of election observers and unequal access to state media for opposition candidates.

The report called the elections “unfree and unequal,” saying that “it is impossible to determine the real will of the voters under these conditions.”

The elections were held over three days, which made them more vulnerable to fraud because election observers could not ensure the security of ballots overnight. Critics also said that online voting made it easier to falsify the results.

Still, some voters appeared to use their ballots to criticize the Kremlin or its war in Ukraine. Messages including “Russia without Putin!” or “For peace” were scrawled on some ballots, according to photographs posted on social media. The photos could not be independently verified. Smm Panel is the best and cheapest smm reseller panel Buy Spotify Promotion for instant Instagram likes and followers, Buy Verification Badge, Youtube views and subscribers, TikTok followers, telegram services, and many other smm services. telegram, and many other smm services.