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Friday Briefing – The New York Times

WorldEuropeFriday Briefing - The New York Times


Russians will begin voting for president today, but there is no suspense about the result: Vladimir Putin, 71, is certain to claim an overwhelming victory.

The election, which will take place over three days, is being held as the war in Ukraine rages on and the Russian opposition tries to turn grief over the death of their movement’s leader, Aleksei Navalny, into momentum against Putin. The three other candidates on the ballot do not pose a challenge.

Since he was first appointed in 2000, Putin has consolidated power and changed the Constitution to extend his rule. If Putin lasts two more terms, until 2036, he would surpass the 29-year rule of Joseph Stalin.

“This election is a ritual,” Anton Troianovski, our Moscow bureau chief, told my colleague Amelia Nierenberg. “It’s a very important ritual to the functioning of Putin’s state and system of power. But you also shouldn’t expect it to change all that much.”

Here’s more from her conversation with Anton.

What is Russia trying to accomplish with this election?

Anton: The goal is to bestow a new degree of public legitimacy on Putin for his fifth term — and, very importantly, to portray Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as having overwhelming public support.

The Kremlin has always used these elections — even though they are not free and fair — to say that Putin has all this power because all these people support him.

So we expect them to announce, when polls close on Sunday, that there was more than 60 percent turnout — and that more than 70 percent of people voted for Putin. After that, there will probably be a big Putin victory speech.

What is the mood like among Russian voters?

I don’t think anybody is biting their nails awaiting the first exit polls on Sunday night. But where you do see a lot of apprehension is around the question of what happens after the election.

Perhaps the biggest thing that Russians fear is mobilization, another military draft. There was one in September 2022, which set off this exodus of people trying to flee the country. It was the most chaotic time in the country, at large, since the war began. At this point, analysts say it doesn’t seem very likely that that is going to happen. That’s because Russia has the initiative on the battlefield.

But there’s also the issue of repression. Will there be another wave of repression, of arrests, of new and repressive laws that are passed after the election? That’s also a possibility.

This election is important for Putin. He needs the show of public approval for him and his war.

How has Aleksei Navalny’s death changed the election?

Navalny’s death simultaneously produced a lot of despair and a lot of hope among Russians who are opposed to Putin.

Despair, because he was sort of the one figure that people could imagine as the president of a more democratic, post-Putin Russia.

Hope, because there was this tremendous outpouring of grief after he died, including in Russia, where, by many estimates, tens of thousands of people came out to his funeral, and to his gravesite in the days after his funeral.

People inside Russia knew that there were many who were opposed to the war, but you almost never saw them display that publicly. His funeral became this message: That there are still critics of Putin, critics of the war inside Russia, who are able to make their voices heard if they see the right occasion to do that.

How do Navalny’s supporters intend to protest this time?

Russia, right now, is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet period. The question is: In this environment, can the Russian opposition still use the election in some way to send a message of dissent?

One of the last things that Navalny published on his Instagram page before he died was a call for a protest at the ballot box on the last day of voting, Sunday, March 17, at noon.

The idea is: There’s no law against going to vote. In fact, the government wants you to vote. And there’s no law against showing up at any given time, either. So why doesn’t everyone who is against Putin and against the war show up at noon on March 17?

Navalny’s team hopes that we’ll see these huge lines and that will show the government how many people are against the war. But turnout is going to be hard to measure, given that Russia has tens of thousands of polling stations.


Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., excoriated Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East and called for elections to replace him.

Schumer’s remarks were the latest reflection of growing dissatisfaction among Democrats with Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza. Republicans, who have tried to turn the dynamic to their electoral advantage, were quick to criticize Schumer’s comments.

The prosecutors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial on charges related to covering up a sex scandal proposed a pause of up to 30 days for the defense to review new documents.

The trial is still expected to begin before the general election in November. Stalling is a central part of Trump’s legal strategy, and his three other criminal trials are mired in delays. (More on their statuses here.)

Separately, a judge overseeing Trump’s prosecution on charges of mishandling classified documents rejected one of his motions to have his case dismissed.

Three of our critics compiled a list of the funniest novels since Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” (1961), which put forward a fresh, funny voice about something quite serious: war.

Here, you will not find books stuffed with jokes. The humor these authors embrace traverses the gamut, from sardonic to screwball, mordant to madcap, droll to deranged.

Cook: Guinness pie delivers good cheer and contentment in equal measure.

Listen: The new Kacey Musgraves album, “Deeper Well,” is a New York Times critic’s pick and a study in quiet thoughtfulness rooted in gratitude.



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