Russia votes as Vladimir Putin eyes 4th presidential term

Admiral Lord West

Vladimir Putin headed to an overwhelming win in Russia's presidential election Sunday, adding six years in the Kremlin for the man who has led the world's largest country for all of the 21st century.

Election monitors were reporting irregularities at voting stations across Russian Federation, even though election authorities were under orders to ensure that the voting was free and fair after violations marred Putin's last election in 2012.

Putin is running for presidency for the fourth time.

Putin's main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated.

Addressing a rally in Moscow after the early results were declared, Mr Putin said voters had "recognised the achievements of the last few years".

Kremlin officials privately acknowledge a worry that some of Russia's 110 million eligible voters will not bother casting ballots because they believe Putin is a shoo-in. The polls give Putin, the incumbent, support of around 70 per cent, or almost 10 times the backing of his nearest challenger.

Selfie competitions, giveaways, food festivals and children's entertainers were laid on at polling booths in a bid to create a festive atmosphere around the election.

But employees of state and private companies reported coming under pressure to vote, while students were threatened with problems in their exams or even expulsion if they did not take part, according to the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

More than 1,500 global observers are joining thousands of Russian observers to watch the vote.

Crowds gathered in the heart of Russia's capital Moscow late on Sunday as polls for the presidential election closed.

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Putin's opponents alleged officials were trying to inflate the turnout.

But the electoral commission dismissed most concerns, saying monitors sometimes misinterpret what they see. The nuclear-capable missile has now been named "Palmyra".

Only Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruled for longer.

By that time he will be 71-years-old.

"After he brought Crimea back, he became a hero to me".

Today also marks exactly four years since Putin signed a treaty declaring Crimea part of Russian Federation following its annexation from Ukraine, an action that led to the war in the east of the former Soviet state. And the Kremlin remains at odds with Washington after the United States hit Russian Federation with new sanctions over its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow. Putin has promised to use his new term to beef up Russia's defences against the West and to raise living standards.

With ballots counted from 60% of the precincts, Putin won more than 75% of the vote, according to the Central Elections Commission. Speaking after just winning a new six-year term in office from 2018-2024, Putin said he regarded a question about whether he would seek yet another term in six years' time as "funny".

The government wants to ensure that this election is clean after ballot stuffing and fraud marred the last Russian presidential election in 2012.

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