At his annual press conference last Thursday, a beatific Vladimir Putin said his re-election victory and the soccer World Cup held in Russia were the highlights of 2018. That’s a remarkably upbeat assessment of a year that was by no means one of the Russian president’s best.

He won another term in March with 77 percent of the vote, but, as in every election in the Putin era, researchers have found statistical evidence of vote-rigging. Although the fraud worked for Putin, it failed to produce results in a series of gubernatorial elections this year. Even though the Kremlin managed to reassert control over key regions such as the Maritime Territory in the Far East, voters are finding it easier to resist manipulation and cheating.

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