In Russian election, some people say they were ordered to vote

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Casting his ballot in Moscow, Putin said he would be pleased with any result giving him the right to continue as president. "Just the opposite, we will seek to develop constructive relations with other countries".

The election was held as Russian Federation faces increasing isolation on the world stage over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of USA sanctions just as it gears up for the football World Cup in the summer.

The scale of victory - which had been widely predicted - was a marked increase in his share of the vote from 2012, when he won 64%. Russians have a choice of eight candidates, including the communist Pavel Grudinin, a fruit-farm millionaire and Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of Putin's political mentor.

An additional, the Russian Presidential applicant is the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Putin "sees no glory in defeating the usual run of puppet buffoons", said Oleg Kashin, a writer who purportedly urged Sobchak to participate in Russia's anti-government protests in 2011-2012.

Critics described the vote as a charade, and opposition activist Navalny has been urging his supporters to boycott the vote ever since he was barred from the ballot in December.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he boycotted the presidential election and advises other Russians to do the same.

"It's clear to everyone who will be elected".


Despite the landslide, Putin still faces enormous challenges.

At home, he will be faced with how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to circumvent term limits, how to drive diversification in an economy still highly dependent on oil and gas and how to improve medical care and social services in regions far removed from the modern glitter of Moscow.

"This is a consolidated response to the pressure that is now exerted on Russian Federation", the co-chairperson of Putin's electoral headquarters, Yelena Shmelyova, told the Interfax news agency after the results came in. Putin has promised to use his new term to beef up Russia's defenses against the West and to raise living standards.

Many Russians believe he has restored stability after the chaos that ensued after the Soviet Union collapsed. We, as the world, we need change'.

The only real headache for Putin's campaign was the possibility many voters, including Putin supporters, would not bother to come to the polls because they felt the outcome was already a foregone conclusion.

Two election observers in Gorny Shchit, a rural district of Yekaterinburg reported witnessing an unusually high influx of people going to the polls between noon and 2pm.

Voting underway in the city of Ulyanovsk, east of Moscow.

A doctor at a hospital in the Ural mountains city said that 2pm was the deadline for health officials to report to their superiors that they had voted.


Golos, an independent election watchdog that the Kremlin calls a "foreign agent", reported dozens of violations across the country, including ballot-box stuffing and irregularities with lists of registered voters.

A Russian state exit poll gave him 73.9% of the vote, easily defeating his closest competitor.

"While the incumbent president did not participate in debates or campaigning, extensive and unchallenging news coverage of his official activities continued to provide him with dominant presence in the media", said Marietta Tidei of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly.

It is more common to see Russian Federation itself accused of election meddling, as it has been in the U.S. and 19 European nations.

"Putin now has a feeling of success, he feels the West is splintering", Forbrig said by phone from Berlin. "Someone else wouldn't deliver what Putin will deliver".

"Of course I'm for Putin, he's a leader", said Olga Matyunina, a 65-year-old retired economist.

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


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