Putin gathers re-election signatures in Russian-held Ukraine

DONETSK, Russian-controlled Ukraine (Reuters) – Residents of the Russian-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine lined up on Tuesday to register their support for Vladimir Putin in a presidential vote where he is sure to win re-election.

Russia claimed Donetsk and three other Ukrainian regions as its own territory in September 2022 in a move that Ukraine and most countries at the United Nations condemned as illegal.

Conducting the March election in these areas is important for Moscow as a means of demonstrating that it has integrated them as “new territories”, even though it does not fully control them militarily. Ukraine says the exercise is illegitimate and void.

Putin needs to gather 300,000 signatures by Jan. 31 in support of his candidacy because he has put his own name forward for re-election instead of being nominated by a political party.

Supporters in Donetsk said they were happy to add their names to the list.

“This is our future, our life, our tranquillity. We want the end of war. I think he will help us in this, as president,” one woman, Olga, told reporters.

Nearly two years into the conflict, there is no sign of an end to it and neither side has made any significant breakthrough for many months. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday that every reduction of pressure on Russia would add years to the war.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)