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A member of a local electoral commission installs an electronic voting machine at a polling station during preparations for the presidential election, in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2024.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What to watch in this weekend’s Russian presidential “election”

Breaking: GZERO Media’s “decision desk” is now ready to project that Vladimir V. Putin will be reelected president of Russia this weekend. We’re walking out on this limb because the Kremlin controls most media in Russia, any opposition candidate who might embarrass Putin is barred from running, and protests are not tolerated.

But there are a few factors worth watching. Will the government get the turnout it wants? Probably. As Eurasia Group’s Alex Brideau told us yesterday, “Government employees, soldiers, and people working for state-owned companies will be under pressure to vote and ensure others vote for Putin, too.” Even if turnout is low, Russian state media will likely tell us it was high.

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FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian man cries next to bodies of her family members who died following Israeli strikes earlier, during their funeral in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Zakot / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Gaza death toll’s bleak milestone, UK inflation’s two-year low, California’s holiday rains, Pro-peace candidate’s race against Putin, US-Venezuela prisoner swap

20,000: Over 20,0000 Palestinians have been killed since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in early October, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. The death toll in the enclave has risen at a historic rate amid Israeli airstrikes, and both Israel and Hamas face allegations of war crimes.

3.9: UK inflation cooled to 3.9% in November – down from October’s 4.6% – to its lowest rate in over two years. Economists say the surprising fall in consumer price inflation could lead the Bank of England to slash interest rates in the first half of 2024, far earlier than expected.

20 million: El Niño is gifting Californians just what they want for the holidays: intense rainfall and possible flooding and mudslides. A flood watch was in place for over 20 million people in California on Wednesday, and the National Weather Service said heavy rainfall is expected across the southern part of the Golden State through Friday, warning of a “significant flash flood risk.”

300,000: Russian Yekaterina Duntsova, a former TV journalist who’s called for peace in Ukraine, on Wednesday submitted documents to formally register for the 2024 presidential election against Vladimir Putin. Duntsova faces a few obstacles: She needs 300,000 signatures in support of her candidacy from at least 40 regions, and, well … a fair democratic process.

10: The US and Venezuela swapped prisoners on Wednesday. The South American country released 10 imprisoned Americans and extradited an ex-military contractor referred to as “Fat Leonard” – who was the heart of a major US Navy corruption scandal – in exchange for Alex Saab, a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

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