Russia's Vladimir Putin wins by big margin

Putin easily wins another six-year term firms grip on Russia

Russia's Vladimir Putin wins by big margin

Last year Navalny called tens of thousands of mainly young Russians out onto the street for protests against Putin.

Putin's main challenge in the vote was to obtain a huge margin of victory in order to claim an indisputable mandate. By 7 p.m. Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit almost 60 per cent.

Casting his ballot in Moscow, Putin said he would be pleased with any result giving him the right to continue as president.

Putin's only credible challenger, blogger and activist Boris Navalny, was barred from running because of a fraud conviction he said was created to exclude him from electoral politics.

Navalny - who called on his supporters to boycott the "fake" vote and sent over 33,000 observers across the country to see how official turnout figures differed from those of monitors - said there had been "unprecedented violations".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he has no plans to change the country's constitution for the time being, and suggested he would not seek the presidency again in 2030. Britain and Russian Federation last week announced tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions over the spy case and the United States issued new sanctions.

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But the disputes likely worked in Putin's favor, reinforcing the official stance that the West is infected with "Russophobia" and determined to undermine both Putin and traditional Russian values. His United Russia party helped parliament move the date of the vote to the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia's interests in a hostile outside world, even though the cost is confrontation with the West. Just weeks before the election, he announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defences.

At home, he will be faced with how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to circumvent term limits, how to drive diversification in an economy still highly dependent on oil and gas and how to improve medical care and social services in regions of the sprawling country far removed from the modern glitter of Moscow.

Putin, who has ruled Russian Federation for nearly two decades, won more than 75 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, but the opposition cried foul.

Putin stated that our country is a democratic one, that our courts are fair, but he is lying.

A day of voting across Russia's 11 time zones began at 2000 GMT on Saturday on Russia's eastern edge, in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. "He restored our confidence in Russian Federation", 43-year-old Mikhail Ryabov said after casting his ballot in Moscow.

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"Foreign policy is hard for me to understand, and I don't want to go into that", said Galiaya, a mother of two and a businesswoman at School 2123.

In a sign of continued tension between Kiev and Moscow, Ukraine said Sunday it would not allow Russians in the country to vote at Russian consulates, according to a statement from the government information agency, Ukrinform.

Most people who spoke to AFP said they voted for Putin, praising him for restoring stability and national pride after the humiliating collapse of the USSR.

Critics alleged that officials had compelled people to come to the polls to ensure that voter boredom at the one-sided contest did not lead to a low turnout. In Moscow, first-time voters were given free tickets for pop concerts, and health authorities offered free cancer screenings at selected polling stations. There were also widespread reports of companies and government departments pressuring their workers to vote.

Some examples: ballot boxes being stuffed with extra ballots in multiple regions; an election official assaulting an observer; CCTV cameras obscured by flags or nets from watching ballot boxes; discrepancies in ballot numbers; last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout and a huge pro-Putin board inside one polling station.

In addition, US federal prosecutors are investigating whether Russian-linked groups interfered during the 2016 presidential election.

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But Navalny, who risks 30 days in jail for organising illegal protests, urged a boycott. Polls show that most Russians see the takeover of that Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions. And Golos, an independent watchdog group, said Sunday evening it has received over 2,700 reports of potential voting irregularities in Russia's presidential election.

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