Putin, after re-election, laughs off question about running for another term

Vladimir Putin leads the presidential elections in Russian Federation according to the first exit polls, RIA Novosti reported.

Results from more than half of precincts showed Putin winning over 75 percent of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing far behind with about 13 and 6 percent, respectively.

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Put had faced seven minor candidates on the ballot.

Putin's main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated. "Sobchak is lying as well, that is why the people do not vote for her", he said, referring to Ksenia Sobchak, who was projected to win 2.5% of the vote.

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 US presidential election, something Russian Federation flatly denies.

Relations with the United States took another hit after Washington on Thursday announced new sanctions on Russian Federation over its reported meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, one of the most dramatic manifestations of Putin's drive to reassert Russia's power.

Russian election officials moved quickly Sunday to respond to some of the violations.

Ukrainian leaders are also angry over Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014. But Putin's popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

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

Putin's bellicose language reached a crescendo before the election in a state-of-the-nation speech when he unveiled new nuclear weapons, saying they could hit nearly any point in the world and evade a USA -built missile shield.

Putin declared victory in front of thousands of people gathered in below-freezing temperatures at Moscow's Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin, where he called for unity in the country. More than 100 million citizens were registered to vote.

Putin loyalists said the result was a vindication of his tough stance towards the West.

The statement said only diplomats would have access to Russian diplomatic institutions on Ukrainian territory during the vote "in order to avoid provocations and possible grave consequences".

The doctor, who gave her name only as Yekaterina because of fears about repercussions, said she and her co-workers were told to fill out forms detailing not only where they would cast their ballots, but also told to give the names and details of two "allies" whom they promise to persuade to go vote.

Voters appeared to be turning in out in larger numbers Sunday than in the last presidential election in 2012, when Putin faced a serious opposition movement and there were violations of multiple voting, ballot stuffing and coercion. Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote.

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 opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper. He hailed those who voted for him as a "big national team", adding that "we are bound for success".

  • Jon Douglas