West decries Russia’s reelection of Putin; China, India vow closer ties

Russian presidential candidate and incumbent President Vladimir Putin speaks after polling stations closed, in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2024. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Matthias Williams and John Irish

LONDON (Reuters) -Western governments lined up on Monday to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s landslide reelection as unfair and undemocratic, but China, India and North Korea congratulated the veteran leader on extending his rule by a further six years.

The contrasting reactions underscored the geopolitical fault lines that have gaped wider since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, triggering the deepest crisis in relations with the West since the end of the Cold War.

Arriving in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers roundly dismissed the election result as a sham ahead of agreeing sanctions on individuals linked to the mistreatment and death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“Russia’s election was an election without choice,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the start of the meeting.

Playing on Moscow’s reference to its war in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Paris had taken note of the “special election operation”.

“The conditions for a free, pluralistic and democratic election were not met,” his ministry said.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the election outcome highlighted the “depth of repression” in Russia.

“Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media, and then crowns himself the winner. This is not democracy,” Cameron said.

France, Britain and others condemned the fact that Russia had also held its election in occupied regions of Ukraine that it claims to have annexed during the war.

The Kremlin dismissed such criticism, saying the 87% of the vote won by Putin during the three-day election showed the Russian people were consolidating around him.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia’s election had no legitimacy.

“It is clear to everyone in the world that this figure (Putin)… is simply sick for power and is doing everything to rule forever,” Zelenskiy said.

U.S. President Joe Biden has not yet commented but a White House spokesperson on Sunday said Russia’s election was “obviously not free nor fair”.


In sharp contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Putin, and said Beijing would maintain close communication with Moscow to promote the “no limits” partnership they agreed in 2022, just before Russia invaded Ukraine.

“I believe that under your leadership, Russia will certainly be able to achieve greater achievements in national development and construction,” Xi told Putin in his message, according to Xinhua News.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered his congratulations on Putin’s “decisive” victory and the Kremlin said the two men expressed readiness on the telephone to pursue their “effective coordination” in the OPEC+ oil producers group.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed that message, saying he looked forward to strengthening New Delhi’s “time-tested special and privileged strategic partnership” with Moscow.

India and China, along with Russia, are members of the BRICS group of emerging economies that aims to challenge U.S. domination of the global economy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, accused by the West of supplying weapons to Russia, also extended congratulations to Putin, stressing their desire for further expansion of bilateral relations with Moscow.

In Africa, where the West has been struggling to win support for its efforts to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine war, some newspapers saw Putin’s re-election as reinforcing the stance of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Those three states in the Sahel region have strengthened ties with Russia following coups in recent years at the expense of their traditional French and U.S. allies.

“In Africa, this re-election could sound like a non-event, but given the context in the Sahel it takes on a particular meaning, because Putin embodies the new geopolitical balance of power on the continent with a growing (Russian) presence and influence,” said Burkina Faso daily Aujourd’hui au Faso”.


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