Russia election: Muted Western reaction to Putin victory

Russia election: Muted Western reaction to Putin victory

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Media captionHow the Russian election unfoldedWorld leaders are congratulating Vladimir Putin on his election for a new six-year term as Russian president, but so far no Western leaders have responded to his victory.Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country’s partnership with Russia was at its “best level in history”.Mr Putin got more than 76% of the vote, official results show. He said he was considering changes to his government, including the post of prime minister.Former President Dmitry Medvedev has held the post since he changed places in 2012 with Mr Putin, who has ruled the country as either president or prime minister since 1999.The main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.Putin basks in election he could not lose
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In a congratulatory message to Mr Putin, Mr Xi said: “Currently, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is at the best level in history, which sets an example for building a new type of international relations.”The leaders of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba were among others who also sent their best wishes.But no Western leaders have so far made any comment. Tensions with the West have deepened in recent weeks after the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain, which the UK government blamed on Russia.It expelled 23 Russian diplomats from London, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow. The US has also recently imposed sanctions on a group of Russians over alleged interference in the 2016 election.Addressing a rally in Moscow, Mr Putin said voters had “recognised the achievements of the last few years”.Speaking to reporters after the results were announced, he laughed off a question about running again in another six years.
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Turnout was reported to be more than 67% – higher than in the last vote

“What you are saying is a bit funny. Do you think that I will stay here until I’m 100 years old? No!” he said.The scale of victory – which had been widely predicted – appears to be a marked increase in his share of the vote from 2012, when he won 64%. Turnout, at more than 67%, also appears to be up.Mr Putin’s nearest competitor, millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin, received slightly less than 12%.The race also included Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality TV host, and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky – they got less than 2% and less than 6% respectively.In some areas, free food and discounts in local shops were on offer near polling stations.Video recordings from polling stations showed irregularities in a number of towns and cities across Russia. Several showed election officials stuffing boxes with ballot papers.Mr Navalny was excluded from the election because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin.In his first reaction to the election result, Mr Navalny indicated he had been unable to contain his anger.”Now is the season of Lent. I took it upon myself never to get angry and not to raise my voice. Oh well, I’ll try again next year,” he tweeted.Life in Putin’s Russia explained in 10 charts
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During polling day, independent election monitoring group Golos reported hundreds of irregularities, including:Voting papers found in some ballot boxes before polls opened
Observers were barred from entering some polling stations
Some people were bussed in amid suspicion of forced voting
Webcams at polling stations were obstructed by balloons and other obstacles, as this video from the Siberian city of Kemerovo posted by the group demonstrates

Skip Twitter post by @golosinfo

Комиссия №268 в Кемерово решила, что шарики – хороший способ закрыть видеокамеру и спокойно приступить к подсчету— Движение Голос (@golosinfo) March 18, 2018

End of Twitter post by @golosinfo

But Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Electoral Commission, said there were only half as many reported violations compared to 2012, and that none had been serious.Sunday’s vote was also the first in Crimea since Russia seized the region from Ukraine. Mr Putin’s victory rally coincided with the anniversary of the annexation.The annexation was bitterly contested by Kiev and ratcheted up tensions between Russia and the West. Russians living in Ukraine were unable to take part in Sunday’s vote because access to Russian diplomatic missions was blocked by the Kiev government.