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Vladimir Putin decisively re-elected as Russian president - preliminary results
20 March 2018, 04:16 | Tara Lloyd
Kremlin Press Service
Early results showed that with just 21.3% of boxes counted, Mr Putin had nearly 72% of the votes.
Mr Putin, whose approval ratings top 80%, is set to easily win another six-year term against seven challengers, but the Kremlin has been concerned about voter apathy and has sought to boost turnout to make his victory as impressive as possible.
If Putin serves to the end of his new fourth term, which expires in 2024, he would become the longest-serving leader of Russian Federation since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Near final figures put voter turnout at 67.47 percent, just shy of the 70 percent the presidential administration was reported to have been aiming for by Russian media before the vote.
Selfie competitions, giveaways, food festivals and children's entertainers were laid on at polling stations in a bid to create a festive atmosphere around the election.
Voters in Russia's Perm region said they were coming under pressure from their employers to vote Sunday - and to prove it. Messages were sent Friday to regional employees, warning that information about their voting habits would be submitted to management.
Some see Ms Sobchak, the daughter of Mr Putin's one-time patron, as a Kremlin project meant to add a democratic veneer to the vote and help split the ranks of Kremlin critics.
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The election was held as Russian Federation faces increasing isolation on the world stage over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of USA sanctions just as it gears up for the football World Cup in the summer. She said those already alleging the election was rigged were biased and peddling "Russophobia", echoing a line used by the Kremlin to describe Western criticism of Russian Federation.
The Central Election Commission said the countrywide voter turnout stood at about 60 percent, with about three hours to go before polls closed.
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. The government wants to ensure that this election is clean after ballot stuffing and fraud marred the last Russian presidential election in 2012. Many took photographs of themselves voting, saying they were needed as proof.
However, Russians living in Ukraine will not be allowed to participate, after the Ukrainian government barred them from visiting Moscow's diplomatic delegations because it considers Russia to be an "aggressor" and has dismissed its elections as "illegal".
Putin's 57-year-old business ombudsman is running for president for the first time, nominated by a pro-business party.
Under current Russian law, Putin cannot stand for re-election.
There was little fanfare in the campaign period and Russian news was dominated by developments in political crises between Russia and Western powers.
Given the lack of real competition, authorities struggled against voter apathy, in the process putting many of Russia's almost 111 million voters under intense pressure to cast ballots.
"After he brought Crimea back, he became a hero to me".
Western sanctions on Russia imposed over Crimea and Moscow's backing of a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine remain in place and have damaged the Russian economy, which only rebounded a year ago after a prolonged downturn.
In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow.
Britain and Russian Federation are also locked in a diplomatic dispute over the spy poisoning incident, and Washington is eyeing new sanctions on Moscow over allegations it interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Russian Federation flatly denies.
It comes as Russia's Central Election Commission said it was quickly responding to claims of violations in the presidential vote.
His previous Kremlin term has been marked by a severe crackdown on the opposition, the annexation of Crimea, support for an insurgency in eastern Ukraine, an ongoing military intervention in Syria and the introduction of European and United States sanctions - all to the backdrop of a huge deterioration in ties with the West.
The constitution limits the president to two successive terms, obliging him to step down at the end of his new mandate.
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