Putin Sweeps to New Term as Tensions Spiral With West

Putin eyes fourth term in polls as opposition cries foul

Putin Sweeps to New Term as Tensions Spiral With West

The ongoing probe into alleged Russian meddling in US elections and the recent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in London have made Mr. Putin a new target of Western criticism, with British Prime Minister Theresa May calling on all world leaders to stand up to and isolate Russia for alleged aggression.

He garnered 76.66% of the vote in the March 18 election with 99.84% of the ballots counted, reports TASS news agency.

Of the other presidential candidates, Communist Party nominee Pavel Grudinin finished second with 11.8 percent of the vote and the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky took the third place with 5.66 percent of votes in his favor, according to another TASS article.

Worldwide leaders were slow to congratulate the Russian president after a Sunday election that saw him take nearly 77 percent of the vote, as monitors reported ballot stuffing and other alleged cases of fraud.

Putin, who has extended his power until at least 2024 and is already Russia's longest-serving leader since Stalin, ruled out remaining president for life.

Putin wanted to have a broad mandate for what, according to the constitution, should be his last six years as president of Russian Federation.

Saying that Russian Federation had to further strengthen its defences, he added: "I would like to tell you straight away that no-one intends to unleash some kind of arms race".

With more than 56 million votes, it was Mr. Putin's biggest ever win and the largest by any post-Soviet Russian leader.

Two election observers in Gorny Shchit, a rural district of Yekaterinburg, told The Associated Press they saw an unusually high influx of people going to the polls just before 2 p.m.

During his new presidential period, Vladimir Putin has promised to improve Russia's defenses against the western world, and to raise the living standards of the population.

Election officials, who are there to guarantee the integrity of voting, were apparently caught on CCTV putting filled-in votes into a ballot box in Moscow.

Navalny's opposition movement and the non-governmental election monitor Golos reported ballot stuffing, repeat voting and Putin supporters being bussed into polling stations en masse.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin's most serious foe, will face further pressure from authorities as he works to expose corruption and official lies.

And yet, Putin's victory speech Sunday evening was unusually lackluster. "The peak of the attack was at 02.20 a.m. Moscow Time".

In an effort to boost voter turnout, a variety of enticements were offered at some polling stations, including prizes for those who wore the best costumes, cancer screening and discounted food items.

Crimea and Russia's subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine led to an array of US and European sanctions that, along with falling oil prices, damaged the Russian economy and slashed the ruble's value by half.

In his next six years, Putin is likely to assert Russia's power overseas even more strongly.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to congratulate Mr Putin, but said her message would raise "challenges" about relations with Russian Federation.

Less than three minutes after he stepped on stage, Putin was gone, leaving the crowd to chant "Russia!" and wave their flags in the cold Moscow night without him.

The OSCE also noted his opponents faced off in televised debates that Mr Putin sat out, but that he still dominated the media coverage.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the same paper that she would not go so far as speak of "war" but that Putin had long ceased to be a "partner".

In the runup to the vote, a new crisis broke out with the West as Britain implicated Putin in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal with a Soviet-designed nerve agent.

Latest News