Vladimir Putin cruised to victory in Russia`s presidential election on Sunday, giving him at least another six years in power as Moscow`s relations with the West become increasingly strained.
Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, recorded his best ever election performance with more than 76 percent of the vote, but the opposition cried foul.
Monitors reported ballot stuffing and other cases of alleged fraud as the Kremlin pushed for a high turnout to give greater legitimacy to Putin`s historic fourth term. The Russian strongman ran against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.
“I see in this (result) the confidence and hope of our people,” Putin said in an address to crowds of supporters on a square next to the Kremlin after exit polls put him on track for a resounding victory.
“Our thoughts will turn to the future of our great country and the future of our children,” said the man who is already Russia’s longest-serving leader since Stalin.