Vladimir Putin has won a fourth term as Russia’s president, adding six years in the Kremlin for the man who has led the world’s largest country for all of the 21st century.’
Mr Putin addressed thousands of people who rallied outside the Kremlin on Sunday to thank them for their support and promised new achievements.
Speaking to a crowd who attended a pop concert marking his election victory, Mr Putin hailed those who voted for him as a “big national team”, adding that “we are bound for success”.
He said that the nation needs unity to move forward and urged the audience to “think about the future of our great motherland”.
He then led the enthusiastic crowd to chant “Russia!”
Results from more than half of precincts showed Putin winning over 75 per cent of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin and ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing far behind with about 13 and 6 per cent, respectively.
The vote was tainted by widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the complaints will likely do little to undermine Mr Putin.
The Russian leader’s popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 US election.
Putin’s main challenge in the vote was to obtain a huge margin of victory in order to claim an indisputable mandate.
The Central Elections Commission said Putin had won about 73 per cent of the vote, based on a count of 30 per cent of the country’s precincts.
Russian authorities had sought to ensure a large turnout to bolster the image that Mr Putin’s so-called “managed democracy” is robust and offers Russians true choices.
By 5pm Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit nearly 52 per cent.
Put had faced seven minor candidates on the ballot.
His most vehement foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was rejected as a presidential candidate because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated.
Mr Navalny and his supporters had called for an election boycott but the extent of its success could not immediately be gauged.
The election came amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, with reports that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, in Britain and that its internet trolls had mounted an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 US presidential election.
The election took place on the fourth anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, one of the most dramatic manifestations of Mr Putin’s drive to reassert Russia’s power.