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Putin is going to win 6 more years as the leader. Here’s how it will impact the war and Russia’s relationships

Vladimir Putin is poised to sweep to another six-year term in this week’s election, even though Russians are dying in Ukraine in a war and his country is more isolated than ever.

By The Associated Press

Vladimir Putin is positioned to secure another six-year term in this week’s presidential election, even though Russians are dying in Ukraine in a war continuing for its third year and his country is more separated than ever from the rest of the world.

The almost definite result comes from his firm control of Russia established during his 24 years in power — the longest Kremlin tenure since Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Putin, 71, has quieted nearly all opposition through strict new laws that enforce severe fines or prison on independent voices. Critics have succumbed to unexplained deaths or fled abroad. The ballot features three other symbolic candidates who publicly support his policies.

Putin has directed his campaign on a commitment to achieve his goals in Ukraine, describing the conflict as a battle against the West for the very survival of Russia and its 146 million people.

In a state-of-the-nation address last month, he accused the U.S. and its NATO allies of wanting a dependent, declining, dying space in place of Russia so that they can do whatever they want.

Putin has consistently argued that he sent in the troops in February 2022 to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and prevent Kyiv from posing a major security threat to Moscow by joining NATO. Ukraine and its allies describe the Russian invasion — the largest conflict in Europe since World War II — as an unprovoked act of aggression by the major nuclear power.

He says Russian forces have the upper hand after the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year, arguing that Ukraine and the West will “sooner or later” have to accept a settlement on Moscow’s terms. Putin praised his troops fighting in Ukraine and promised to make them Russia’s new elite.

Ordinary Russians know little of their military’s many setbacks in the war, with casualties out of view and state-run media carrying accounts only of Moscow’s successes.

The economy’s ability to withstand harsh Western sanctions is a significant factor behind Putin’s control on power in Russia, a major player in the global energy sector. The economy is expected to grow 2.6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, compared with the 0.9% expansion predicted in Europe. Inflation is forecast at more than 7% but unemployment remains low.

Military industries have become a key growth engine, with defense plants producing missiles, tanks and ammunition. Large payments to hundreds of thousands of men who signed contracts with the military have helped boost consumer demand, contributing to economic growth.

In his campaign, Putin has vowed to extend affordable mortgages subsidized by the government to help young families, especially those with children, boosting his popularity and invigorating the thriving construction sector.

He also promised to invest more government funds into health care, education, science, culture and sports, while continuing efforts to eliminate poverty.

Putin has systematically tightened control on Russian politics since becoming president in 2000, pushing through constitutional changes that can keep him in power until 2036.

The Kremlin’s crackdown on disagreement became extremely intense after the invasion of Ukraine, leaving a damaged political environment ahead of the vote.

A strict new law passed shortly after the invasion made any public criticism of the war a crime, and protests have become virtually impossible as police quickly break up unauthorized gatherings. The number of arrests, criminal cases and trials has increased, and long prison terms are more common.

Putin has insulted opposition activists and war critics as spoiled Western puppets, once calling them “foam washed away” by his “special military operation.”

His biggest critic, Alexei Navalny, was serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges when he died at age 47 in an Arctic penal colony. Other leading opposition figures also received long prison terms similar to those given to “enemies of the people” during Stalinist repressions. Prominent Kremlin foe, Vladimir Kara-Murza received the harshest sentence of 25 years on treason charges over an anti-war speech.

But even minor critics were silenced. A St. Petersburg artist received seven years for replacing supermarket price tags with anti-war slogans, while a Moscow poet was sentenced to seven years for reciting verses against the war in public.

Most independent news outlets were closed and many relocated their operations abroad, while the state-controlled media tirelessly emphasized the Kremlin’s viewpoints.

Putin will likely use his expected victory as evidence of overwhelming public support for the war.

Many observers expect him to harden his stance and escalate the war. Some say the Kremlin could initiate another round of mobilizing reservists to increase the military’s numbers and attempt to expand its gains in a large, new offensive.

The Kremlin is set to increase its war language, portraying the country as a besieged fortress facing Western aggression. Suppression against opposition activists and war critics is likely to expand, with authorities abandoning any semblance of decorum in their ruthless efforts to eliminate signs of disagreement.

Moscow’s foreign policy is likely to become even more aggressive, and Russian authorities may increasingly try to deepen divides in the West with disinformation and propaganda, as well as appealing to conservative circles in the West by promoting the image of Russia as a bulwark of traditional values.

In Moscow’s relations with China, India and countries of the Global South, Putin’s election victory will help cement existing alliances by reinforcing the message of his firm control over Russian politics.

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