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Vladimir Putin poised for fifth term amid ongoing conflict in Ukraine

Approaching his twenty-fifth year in power, Vladimir Putin will once again commence a six-year presidential term by placing his hand on a copy of the Russian constitution. This continuation solidifies his extraordinary authority despite facing considerable challenges.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which has evolved into Europe’s most significant conflict since World War II, Russia has faced severe sanctions from the West. In response, it has sought support from alternative allies like China and North Korea.

The pressing question now revolves around Putin’s agenda for the next six years, both domestically and internationally.

In March, Putin secured his fifth term as president with an overwhelming victory in the elections, allegedly earning more than 87% of the vote, according to Russian authorities. However, the legitimacy of the election was marred by the absence of credible opposition candidates and a harsh crackdown on dissenting voices.

Numerous European and EU leaders condemned the election as a sham. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier labeled it a “pseudo-election,” while the Polish Foreign Ministry criticized it for lacking legitimacy, freedom, and fairness.

On April 17, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution urging member states to reject Vladimir Putin’s presidency and limit interactions with him to humanitarian matters only. Exiled Russian opposition figures, including Yulia Navalny, echoed similar sentiments.

Although this resolution holds no direct consequences, several Western nations have announced their decision to boycott Putin’s inauguration on May 7. Countries such as the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, the UK, and Canada have opted out, with Germany recalling its ambassador for consultations in response to Moscow’s accusations of hacking attacks in January 2023.

The Kremlin has not disclosed the list of foreign attendees for the inauguration, as reported by state-owned RIA Novosti.

In recent weeks, Russia has escalated its offensive against Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk region, coinciding with Kyiv’s struggles with manpower and ammunition shortages. Simultaneously, border regions of Russia have faced continued drone and missile attacks.

Analysts speculate that these actions aim to appease domestic sentiment, particularly with Victory Day approaching on May 9, potentially including the capture of Chasiv Yar.

Upon commencing his new term, Putin is expected to renew the government, as per the constitution, with the cabinet resigning post-inauguration. There’s speculation that he may retain technocratic Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and key government members like Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu while also making new appointments to militarize the Russian economy further.

Experts anticipate potentially unpopular measures such as tax hikes to fund the ongoing war effort and increased military recruitment throughout Putin’s extended tenure.

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