Russian consulates in some countries considered by the Kremlin to be "unfriendly" may not open voting stations in the upcoming Russian elections, the Russian state-controlled newspaper Vedomosti reported on Jan. 9, citing an unnamed Russian diplomat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was officially nominated as a presidential candidate in the March 15-17 race on Dec. 16. He has held power in Russia since 1999 and is running for his fifth term as president.
There are 49 countries listed as being "unfriendly," and although the closures will not apply to all of them, the source said it could be a significant portion.
The alleged reasons are "security concerns" related partly to the reduction in consular staff in the so-called "unfriendly" countries and the potential for long lines that may snake outside the building.
The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claims.
In the previous Russian presidential election in 2018, 400 voting stations were open in consulates in 145 countries around the world. Close to 450,000 people voted abroad, 85% of whom cast their vote for Putin.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told Vedomosti that the ministry was "currently studying the situation" and "asking countries to ensure security (of voting stations)."
A decision will be made after the fact, she added.
Putin's victory in the election is widely expected to be a foregone conclusion.
Freedom House, a nonprofit advocating international democracy, gave Russia a 0/4 score in its 2023 report card on political freedoms in the country.
"Russia has never experienced a democratic transfer of power between rival groups," described Freedom House.
Any meaningful opposition is prevented from having a fair chance at winning elections, creating "an authoritarian political system (that) is concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin," the human rights group said.