Russia Election: Vladimir Putin Declares Victory
Vladimir Putin has declared victory in Russia’s presidential elections, returning for a third term after spending the last four years as the country’s PM.
Exit polls and preliminary results gave him about 60% of the vote.
Mr Putin told supporters at a rally in central Moscow they had won in an open and honest battle.
But opposition groups have reported widespread fraud, with many people said to have voted more than once.
They have called for mass protests in central Moscow on Monday.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Putin gathered with Russian flags and banners outside the Kremlin for a concert to celebrate his victory.
Making a brief appearance with current President Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Putin thanked his supporters from “every corner” of the country.
The clear majority of around 60% of the vote for Vladimir Putin, being predicted by exit polls almost the moment polls closed, probably came as no surprise to many Russians.
Those who favour of him would say that it reinforced their view that his experience and strongman style always made him the most appropriate candidate for president, and the exit polls merely showed that most Russians agreed with them.
Those opposed to him would say it confirmed their suspicion that this Russian presidential election, like the parliamentary elections in December, was once again not a fair reflection of the country’s preferences, but a precooked theatrical display, manipulated to produce the result the Kremlin always wanted.
It will take time to confirm whether or not the suspicions of violations hold water.
In the meantime, a pro-Putin election rally in front of the Kremlin, has already sent out a message that the contest is over and the third age of ‘Putinism’, his return to the presidency for a third time, is now beyond dispute.
“I promised you we would win, and we won,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “Glory to Russia!”
“We have won in an open and honest battle.
“We proved that no-one can force anything on us.”
Slogans on the banner included “Putin - our president” and “We believe in Putin”, but there were indications that some participants had been ordered to attend.
There is tight security in the city, with 6,000 extra police brought in from outside.