Russian election: Vladimir Putin claims fifth term with landslide victory

Win will mean Putin passes Stalin as Russia's longest-serving leader in more than 200 years

Putin wins Russian election in landslide as thousands protest worldwide

Putin wins Russian election in landslide as thousands protest worldwide
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Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed a landslide victory in his country's election early on Monday, despite widespread protests at polling stations and protestations by the West that the vote was neither free nor fair.

Mr Putin addressed crowds at his headquarters late on Sunday after the partial results, telling them he was ready for talks on a French proposal for a ceasefire in Ukraine during the Olympic Games.

But he said he would need to take Russia's interests on the front line into account.

“I want to thank all of you and all citizens of the country for your support and this trust,” said Mr Putin.

“No matter who or how much they want to intimidate us, no matter who or how much they want to suppress us, our will, our consciousness – no one has ever succeeded in anything like this in history.

“It has not worked now and will not work in the future. Never.”

On Monday Mr Putin thanked supporters at a concert on Red Square, standing alongside the three loyalist candidates who ran against him.

"Hand in hand, we will move forward and this will make us stronger ... long live Russia!" said Mr Putin as he addressed the crowd attending a pop concert to mark 10 years since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Monday, China became the latest country to congratulate Mr Putin, joining North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, plus the leaders of the former Soviet Central Asian nations of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also congratulated Mr Putin and offered to mediate between Moscow and Ukraine, the Turkish presidency announced.

"President Erdogan expressed his belief that the positive evolution of relations between Turkey and Russia were continuing and stated that Turkey was ready to play a facilitator role to return to the negotiating table with Ukraine," the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

It is not the first time Mr Erdogan has offered his services as a mediator in the war as he seeks to maintain friendly relations with Mr Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

But the West dismissed the Russian vote as a sham.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “This is not what free and fair elections look like.”

A US National Security Council representative said: “The elections are obviously not free nor fair, given how Mr Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him.”

Mr Putin, 71, will use the result to emphasise to the West that its leaders will have to reckon with an emboldened Russia, whether in war or in peace, for many more years to come.

The new six-year term will enable Mr Putin, who first came to power in 1999, to overtake Joseph Stalin and become Russia's longest-serving leader in more than 200 years.

Mr Putin won 87.8 per cent of the vote, the highest in Russia's post-Soviet history, an exit poll by the Public Opinion Foundation showed.

The Russian Public Opinion Research Centre put Mr Putin on 87 per cent.

The election comes about two years after Mr Putin began the deadliest European conflict since the Second World War by ordering the invasion of Ukraine. He casts it as a “special military operation”.

Joe Biden blames Vladimir Putin for death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny

Joe Biden blames Vladimir Putin for death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny

War has hung over the three-day election. Ukraine has repeatedly attacked oil refineries in Russia, shelled Russian regions and sought to pierce Russian borders through the use of proxy forces – a move Mr Putin said would not be left unpunished.

While his re-election was not in doubt given his control over Russia and the absence of any real challengers, the former KGB spy wanted to show that he has the overwhelming support of Russians.

Nationwide turnout was 74.22 per cent at 6pm GMT when polls closed, election officials said, passing the 2018 levels of 67.5 per cent.

'Noon against Putin' protest

Supporters of Mr Putin's most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last month, had called on Russians to come out at a “Noon against Putin” protest to show their dissent against a leader they describe as a corrupt autocrat.

There was no independent tally of how many of Russia's 114 million voters took part in the opposition demonstrations, amid extremely tight security involving tens of thousands of police and security officials.

Reuters reported an increase in the flow of voters, especially younger people, at noon at polling stations in Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, with queues of several hundred people and even thousands.

Some said they were protesting, although there were few outward signs to distinguish them from ordinary voters.

As noon arrived across Asia and Europe, crowds hundreds strong gathered at polling stations at Russian diplomatic missions.

Mr Navalny's widow, Yulia, appeared at the Russian embassy in Berlin to cheers and chants of “Yulia, Yulia”.

Exiled supporters of Mr Navalny broadcast footage on YouTube of protests inside Russia and abroad.

Vladimir Putin issues new nuclear threat amid war in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin issues new nuclear threat amid war in Ukraine

“We showed ourselves, all of Russia and the whole world that Putin is not Russia, that Putin has seized power in Russia,” said Ruslan Shaveddinov, of Mr Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

“Our victory is that we, the people, defeated fear, we defeated solitude. Many people saw they were not alone.”

Leonid Volkov, an exiled aide of Mr Navalny who was attacked with a hammer last week in Vilnius, estimated hundreds of thousands of people had come out to polling stations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and other cities.

Mr Putin brushed off the effectiveness of the apparent protest.

“There were calls to come vote at noon. And this was supposed to be a manifestation of opposition. Well, if there were calls to come vote, then … I praise this,” he said at a news conference after polls closed.

Unusually, the Russian leader referenced Mr Navalny by name for the first time ever at the news conference.

At least 74 people were arrested on Sunday across Russia, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors clampdowns on dissent.

Over the previous two days, there were scattered incidents of protest as some Russians set fire to voting booths or poured green dye into ballot boxes.

Russian officials called them scumbags and traitors.

Opponents posted some pictures of ballots spoiled with slogans insulting Mr Putin.

Mr Navalny's death deprived the opposition of its most formidable leader, and other major opposition figures are abroad, in jail or dead.

Ukraine hangs heavily over election

The West casts Mr Putin as an autocrat and a killer. US President Joe Biden last month described him in very disparaging terms.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicted him for the alleged war crime of abducting Ukrainian children, which the Kremlin denies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that Mr Putin wanted to rule for ever.

“There is no legitimacy in this imitation of elections and there cannot be,” Mr Zelenskyy said. “This person should be on trial in The Hague. That's what we have to ensure.”

Mr Putin portrays the war as part of a centuries-old battle with a declining and decadent West that he says humiliated Russia after the Cold War by encroaching on Moscow's sphere of influence.

“Putin's task is now to imprint his worldview indelibly into the minds of the Russian political establishment” to ensure a like-minded successor, Nikolas Gvosdev, director of the national security programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, told the Russia Matters project.

“For a US administration that hoped Putin's Ukraine adventure would be wrapped up by now with a decisive setback to Moscow’s interests, the election is a reminder that Putin expects that there will be many more rounds in the geopolitical boxing ring.”

Russia's election comes at a time that western intelligence chiefs say is a crossroads for the Ukraine war and the wider West, in what Mr Biden casts as a 21st century struggle between democracies and autocracies.

Support for Ukraine is tangled in US domestic politics before the November presidential election, pitting Mr Biden against his predecessor Donald Trump, whose Republican party in Congress has blocked military aid for Kyiv.

Although Kyiv recaptured territory after the invasion in 2022, Russian forces have lately made gains after a failed Ukrainian counter-offensive last year.

The Biden administration fears Mr Putin could grab a bigger slice of Ukraine unless Kyiv receives more support soon. CIA director William Burns has said that could embolden China.

Mr Putin says the West is engaged in a hybrid war against Russia and that western intelligence and Ukraine tried to disrupt the elections.

Voting also took place in Crimea, which Moscow took from Ukraine in 2014, and four other Ukrainian regions it partly controls and has claimed since 2022. Kyiv regards the election on occupied territory as illegal and void.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 9:47 PM