Vladimir Putin's landslide re-election: Leaders react and look forward

Russian TV host and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak speaks during an interview with the Associ

Russian TV host and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak speaks during an interview with the Associ

Other examples of Russian election irregularities cited by observers or posted on social media included 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 sign in one polling station.

Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was in second with 15.6%, followed by nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 6.9%.

Sunday's rally was the culmination of a low-energy reelection campaign, in which Putin himself was an oddly absent figure. The 65-year-old former KGB agent will become the first Kremlin leader to serve for over twenty years since Joseph Stalin, as his new term lasts until 2024. The mood was grim among liberal Russians, with a journalist for Kommersant FM radio, Stanislav Kucher, saying: "Have you been thinking about emigrating for a long time?"

French President Emmanuel Macron wished him "success for the political, democratic, economic and social modernisation" of Russia but, in a phone call to Mr Putin, pointedly asked the Russian authorities to "shed all possible light on who was responsible in relation to the Salisbury attacks".

"People were coming in all at once, (they) were entering in groups as if a tram has arrived at a stop", observer Sergei Krivonogov told the Associated Press, adding that those who voted would take pictures of the leaflets distributed by poll workers afterward.

Putin was re-elected for a record fourth term as president of Russian Federation, winning 75 percent of public votes.

The election exercise was a huge logistical undertaking, taking place across Russia's 11 time zones over 22 hours in approximately 98,000 polling stations. Throughout the day, Golos also reported instances of ballot box stuffing, people being pressured to vote, and various other violations.

The regional election commission said the results from the voting station in Lyubertsy would be invalidated.

With almost 100 per cent of the votes counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC), announced that Putin, who has run Russian Federation as president or prime minister since 1999, had won 76.69 per cent of the vote.

The Russian strongman ran against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.

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And a parade of pro-Kremlin commentators, politicians, and officials claimed that Putin's victory represented nothing less than the unity and determination of a people under siege.

At many polling stations the atmosphere was festive, with patriotic songs blasting out of speakers, cheap food available to voters and entertainers organising games for children.

However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was more critical, condemning the holding of the Russian election in Crimea and saying: "We assume that Russia will remain a hard partner".

"We will work to cultivate the relationship with Russian Federation and we will impose costs when Russian Federation threatens our interests, but we will also look for places to work together when it serves our interests", Gidley said.

Putin's campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov said that at more than 67 per cent, turnout was 8 to 10 percentage points higher than expected "thanks to Britain".

Less than three minutes after he stepped on stage, Putin was gone, leaving the crowd to chant "Russia!" and wave their flags in the cold Moscow night without him.

"We expect Russian Federation to address the violations and shortcomings", an European Union statement said.

How long Mr Putin wants to stay in power is uncertain.

In Chechnya, the southern Russian republic run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former separatist fighter now loyal to the Kremlin, Putin took 91 percent of the vote.

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