Vladimir Putin retains grip on Russian Federation, exit polls show

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Open source
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20 March, 2018

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, has won won a fresh term of office, following a landslide victory of 73.9% of the vote, defeating the closest competitor, according to exit poll.

If Putin serves to the end of his new fourth term, which expires in 2024, he would become the longest-serving leader of Russian Federation since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The Central Elections Commission said Putin had won about 72 percent of the vote, based on a count of 22 percent of the country's precincts.

After his victory, Putin dismissed claims Russian Federation was behind the poisoning in Britain as "drivel, rubbish, nonsense" but said Moscow was ready to cooperate with London in the probe. Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating around 80 per cent, his victory was never in doubt.

Two election observers in Gorny Shchit, a rural district of Yekaterinburg, said they saw an unusually large influx of people going to the polls between noon and 2 p.m.

Some 30,000 Russians have already cast an early ballot vote from overseas, Russia's Electoral Commission said. But the disputes likely worked in Putin's favour, reinforcing the official stance that the West is infected with "Russophobia" and determined to undermine both Putin and traditional Russian values.

Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house, hailed the victory as a moral one over the West.

Nevertheless, she said standing had been worth it. "People have heard the truth, which they have not heard for many years", she said.

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".

Her late father Anatoly Sobchak was a liberal politician who served as mayor of the city of Saint Petersburg and was one of Putin's political mentors.

Navalny rejected Sobchak's offer, using stark language to reiterate his accusation that she only helped the Kremlin slap a veneer of democracy on an election he has dismissed for months as "the reappointment of Vladimir Putin".

At odds with the West over Syria, Ukraine, allegations of Russian election meddling and cyber attacks, and the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter, relations between Moscow and the West are at a post Cold War low.

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"That #Putin had to work so hard to drive voter turnout shows the Russian people know his claim to power is a sham", McCain tweeted.

Sunday's vote was also the first in Crimea since Russian Federation seized the region from Ukraine.

After being hit in 2014 by falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia's weak economic recovery is faltering as stagnation takes hold despite a rebound in crude prices previous year. Also this week, Washington hit Russian Federation with sanctions for trying to influence the 2016 USA election.

While there is no evidence yet to link his killing to the Skripals' case, police said they were "keeping an open mind" because of Glushkov's nationality and his association with Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch and Putin critic who died under disputed circumstances in 2013.

The U.K.'s top diplomat pointed the finger directly at Vladimir Putin, saying it was "overwhelmingly likely" that he personally ordered the nerve-agent attack on British soil. He has already been in power 18 years and could stay until 2024.

The strongman looks set to become one of modern Russia's longest-ever rulers after securing a fourth presidential term in a poll in which he main opponent was barred from running.

Putin was first elected to the Kremlin in 2000, and again four years later.

Voters are widely expected to re-elect Putin to his fourth term this Sunday against a weak field of contenders.

Sergei Inshakov, a 37-year-old part-time taxi driver, said he would vote for Putin even though he was not getting enough state support for his two children.

Although Putin has six years to consider a possible successor, uncertainty about his long-term future is a potential source of instability in a fractious ruling elite that only he can keep in check.


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