Russia’s Putin hails victory in election criticised as illegitimate

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cemented his grip on power in a landslide election victory that has been widely criticised as lacking democratic legitimacy.

In a post-election news conference, Putin cast the outcome as a vindication of his decision to defy the West and invade Ukraine.

“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,” Putin said in an address from his campaign headquarters early on Monday morning.

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

Shortly after the last polls closed on Sunday, early returns pointed to the conclusion everyone expected: that Putin would extend his nearly quarter-century rule for six more years.

According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, he had some 87 percent of the vote with about 60 percent of precincts counted. The result means Putin, 71, will overtake Joseph Stalin and become Russia’s longest-serving leader in more than 200 years.

Communist candidate Nikolay Kharitonov came second with just under 4 percent, newcomer Vladislav Davankov third and ultra-nationalist Leonid Slutsky fourth, early results suggested.

Nationwide turnout was 74.22 percent when polls closed, election officials said, surpassing 2018 levels of 67.5 percent.

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