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Putin’s party hit by cyberattack as armed Russian troops oversee voters in occupied Ukraine

 Voting on Saturday in the basement of an apartment block in Avdiivka, the Donetsk Region    (Reuters)
Voting on Saturday in the basement of an apartment block in Avdiivka, the Donetsk Region (Reuters)

Russia’s governing party said it was hit by a cyberattack on Saturday, the second day of presidential elections, as the Kremlin accused Ukraine of trying to disturb the voting process to curry favour with its Western allies.

The ruling United Russia party, for which Vladimir Putin acts as its de facto ruler but is not representing in these elections, claimed it faced a widespread denial of service attack – a form of cyberattack aimed at paralysing web traffic – and had suspended non-essential services to repel it.

State news agency RIA quoted a senior telecoms official as blaming the cyberattacks on Ukraine and Western countries. They did not provide evidence to substantiate this claim.

It proved the latest in a string of Russian claims that Ukraine and its Western allies were trying to disturb the presidential elections, which are widely viewed as rigged to ensure Mr Putin resumes office for a fifth term.

On the second of three days of voting, the Russian foreign ministry said Kyiv had “intensified its terrorist activities” in connection with the election “to demonstrate its activity to its Western handlers and to beg for even more financial assistance and lethal weapons”.

It comes as two people died as a result of Ukrainian shelling of the Russian city of Belgorod, according to local officials.

A mobile voting unit on Saturday in the village of Nikolayevka, near the Siberian city of Omsk (AP)
A mobile voting unit on Saturday in the village of Nikolayevka, near the Siberian city of Omsk (AP)

Five people were also wounded when a Ukrainian drone hit a car in the village of Glotovo, about a mile from the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

He later announced that schools would be closing in the region until next Wednesday to mitigate against the “current situation”.

The latest attack followed an armed incursion claimed by Ukraine-based Russian opponents of the Kremlin on Tuesday in the Belgorod and Kursk regions.

In Ukraine, Russian authorities alleged that a Ukrainian drone had dropped a shell on a voting station in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.

The state-run Tass news agency quoted a local election official as reporting no damage or injuries when the explosive device landed five or six metres from a building housing a polling station before it had opened in a village about 12 miles east of the city of Enerhodar.

There was no immediate comment from officials in Ukraine, which regards the election taking place in parts of its territory controlled by Russia as illegal and void.

Footage meanwhile has shown armed Russian soldiers escorting poll workers door-to-door through the four regions of Ukraine illegally annexed by Mr Putin in September 2022.

Occupation officials say the military escorts are there to protect those collecting votes but Ukraine says they are there to intimidate civilians into voting for a man that ordered the invasion of their regional homes.

Russia's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) head Ella Pamfilova speaks at the opening of the CEC Information Centre in the run-up for the presidential election in Moscow (AFP)
Russia's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) head Ella Pamfilova speaks at the opening of the CEC Information Centre in the run-up for the presidential election in Moscow (AFP)

Footage published on state media site Readovka showed soldiers “helping people express their will” in the recently-occupied city of Avdiivka. The area has been razed to the ground after five months of heavy bombardment.

In Russia, meanwhile, the head of the electoral commission, Ella Pamfilova, said that in the first two days of voting there had been 20 incidents of people trying to destroy voting sheets by pouring various liquids into ballot boxes, as well as eight cases of attempted arson and a smoke bomb.

Former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev decried those carrying out the attacks as “traitors”.

“All scoundrels who commit crimes at or near polling stations (arson, vandalism, etc.) must remember that they can be held accountable,” he wrote on the Telegram messenger service. “They are traitors, and their actions can be classified much more strictly.”

Ms Pamfilova, the top election official, said that people who try to disrupt voting could face up to five years in prison. She said, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian intelligence and its “accomplices and handlers” – a reference to the West – were behind the rash of protest actions seen so far at polling stations.