The reunification of the Crimea with Russia took place after a referendum in March 2014. 96.77% of the citizens of the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% of the inhabitants of Sevastopol voted in favour of joining the Russian Federation.
British news agency Reuters’ report on regional elections in Russia has ignored the overall result of United Russia, homing in on the party’s loss of a third of its seats in the Moscow city assembly. Reuters then contemplated a possible “beginning of the end” for Vladimir Putin, speculated on Putin’s downfall in the 2024 presidential elections and made an unwarranted comparison to Erdoğan’s election losses in Ankara and Istanbul. Other influential Western media have furthered these false conclusions and presented Alexei Navalny as a hero of the elections, although he is a marginal figure in Russia and his only goal is to delegitimise the elections. Navalny actually avoided running both in the 2019 regional and 2018 Moscow mayoral elections (but this exposure in the West will certainly bring him new grants on account of working towards Putin’s alleged downfall).
These false claims were spread across two complementary reports of Sputnik Serbia, published on September 14th (“How Putin “lost” the elections in Moscow”) and September 15th (“The West is rejoicing Putin’s decline, but what really happened”). Reuters’ report on the results of regional elections in Russia, published on September 9th, does not mention Putin’s “downfall”, nor did Reuters compare Putin to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in this, or any other report on the results of the regional elections held on September 8th in Russia. Reuters also didn’t focus only on United Russia’s loss of seats in Moscow. The report states that the party “retained its majority in the Moscow assembly following Sunday’s nationwide local elections, and its candidates for regional governor appeared to have won in St Petersburg and in 15 other parts of the vast country.” The same point is reiterated in the video clip embedded in the article. The video report provides a statement of Alexei Navalny, but also that of Andrey Turchak, the chairman of United Russia, who said that the party’s overall result was “more than positive” and “has exceeded our most optimistic forecasts”. The claim that Alexei Navalny is “unwilling to run” in the elections is blatantly false. The Russian Central Electoral Commission has barred Navalny from running in the 2018 presidential elections, based on a conviction in a politically motivated trial (see EEAS statement on the case here). Navalny’s party was prevented from registering for the elections 9 times. This includes the 2019 regional elections, when an old trick was reused to deem their registration invalid - another party’s name was changed into “Russia of the Future”, the name of Navalny’s party, providing an excuse to bar them from the ballot. About 30 opposition candidates also had their registrations refused in the elections for Moscow city council, sparking mass protests and arrests, including that of opposition candidates and Navalny himself. The claim that Navalny receives “grants” for his political engagement is another instance of a Kremlin disinformation narrative about Russian opposition parties, politicians and/or protestors being “puppets of the West” (see similar cases here and here).