Steve Rosenberg, the BBC's Russia Editor, posted on X a picture of an election billboard with the quote "Russia’s borders do not end anywhere." Although it's easy to read the message as part of an aggressive expansionist stance from the Russian President's campaign, particularly given the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the history of the phrase does have a different meaning for Putin.
This morning an electronic billboard on my way to work is displaying this Putin quote: “Russia’s borders do not end anywhere.” pic.twitter.com/K7q5wUPHWN
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) January 15, 2024
When asked about the slogan last year and what he meant by the phrase he noted that while Russia is the largest country by area in the world it is also true at a "civilisational level" saying "our compatriots live around the world in large numbers; the Russian world is of a global nature: Russian is one of the official languages of the UN."
He went on to say: "Speaking seriously, from a civilisational sense, Russia has no borders, but neither do other civilisations." He then went on to point out how many Indians and Chinese live in other countries. He concluded with: "Civilisations overlap and interact with each other, and it's great when their interaction is natural and friendly, aimed at strengthening this balance."
Putin is talking tough about the Baltics for 'future escalations' (Business Insider)
The President then pivoted the conversation to discussing the war in Ukraine saying civilisation is primarily about people and adding "Our actions in Donbass, first and foremost, are dictated by the need to protect people. That is the underlying purpose of our actions." He went on to say "we are defending our traditions, our culture and our people."
When is the Russian election?
The Russian presidential election will be held over three days from March 15-17 and the winner will be inaugurated in May. Voting will also happen in the parts of Ukraine Russia has occupied, despite international condemnation.
Around 110 million people have the right to vote in Russia, though around 70-80 million people usually cast ballots. Turnout in 2018 was 67.5%.
How long has Putin been president?
Putin is the longest-serving Russian leader since Josef Stalin and first became president in 1999 after taking over from Boris Yeltsin. The Russian constitution originally said a president can only serve for two successive four-year terms.
Putin was president until 2008 before he effectively swapped places with his prime minister Dmitry Medvedev who took over the top office between 2008 and 2012. Despite Medvedev technically being president during the term Putin was seen as the person running the country.
Under Putin, the Russian constitution has also been amended several times making presidential terms six years and effectively allowing him to run for a further two terms after 2024.
Will the elections be free and fair?
The short answer is no, they will not. An OSCE report on the 2018 election noted there was a large turnout but there were "restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration." The report also said that while candidates could campaign freely there was "extensive and uncritical coverage of the incumbent as president in most media resulted in an uneven playing field."
In the 2024 election, it is expected Putin will face little opposition with all candidates approved by the state and repressive laws on the freedom of speech passed in the wake of the war in Ukraine making any opposition voice not only unlikely but dangerous for the individuals involved.
Many of the candidates in the 2018 election were also either previous supporters of Putin or had connections to him or his party.
Russia's most famous opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, is in jail so cannot run for president. Navalny has castigated Putin's Russia as a state run by thieves and criminals. He has warned Russia's leaders will ultimately be crushed by the forces of history and burn in hell for creating a bloodbath in Ukraine.