Dhaka, 19 Mar, Abnews: President Vladimir Putin has received a record number of votes to win a triumphant re-election amid an opposition boycott at home and muted reaction abroad.
With 99.84 per cent of ballots counted, Mr Putin had received more than 76 per cent of the vote, the central electoral commission said on Monday.
A record 56.2 million Russians voted for the current president on Sunday, almost four million more than voted for all parties in the 2016 parliamentary election.
While dozens of egregious examples of ballot-stuffing and other irregularities were caught on camera, the electoral commission claimed there were fewer confirmed violations than in 2012. The results of five polling stations would be annulled due to violations, it said.
Electoral commission head Yelena Pamfilova hinted that British accusations that the Russian government was behind the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury had helped mobilise voters.
“Our people always unite in difficult moments, so a big thank-you to certain leaders of Western countries, I won't name them, who also made their own positive contribution by facilitating the consolidation and unification of our people,” Ms Pamfilova said.
The United States, which has also raised suspicions Russia was behind Mr Skripal's poisoning, adopted new sanctions last week against Russians implicated in cyber attacks and trolling during the US election.
Chinese president Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to Mr Putin on Monday and said he was ready to take China-Russia relations “to a higher level”. Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said the Russian president's win “solidifies his leadership,” while Evo Morales in Bolivia said Mr Putin “guarantees the geopolitical equilibrium against the charge of imperialism”.
But Western leaders were less forthcoming with their congratulations to Sunday's victor.
“We can't talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said of the Russian election, speaking to counterparts from other European Union countries on Monday. “Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue.”
Foreign minister Boris Johnson has said it is “overwhelmingly likely” that Mr Putin ordered the nerve agent attack on Mr Skripal, and last week the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats suspected of spying
In response, Russia kicked out 23 British diplomatic staff and shut down the UK's St Petersburg consulate and the British Council cultural group.
Mr Putin denied links to the Skripal poisoning on Sunday evening.
“Any reasonable person understands that it would be total rubbish, ravings and nonsense for anyone in Russia to allow themselves such antics ahead of the election and the World Cup,” he told journalists.
With Mr Putin's win a foregone conclusion, all eyes had been on the turnout. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running due to a politically tinged embezzlement conviction, called a boycott of the vote while mobilising 26,000 volunteer electoral observers.
In a YouTube livestream on Sunday evening, Mr Navalny refused to join a new party being formed by presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, a liberal journalist and former reality TV star who garnered less than 2 per cent of the vote, accusing her of being a Kremlin stooge.
“The task of all the 'opposition' candidates is for us all to languish in horror and melancholy, thinking that there are very few of us,” Mr Navalny wrote on Twitter on Monday. “No one supports the opposition, etc. Don't even think of thinking this way.” – The Telegraph