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Watch: Putin in tears as he secures victory in Russian election

Opposition candidates have claimed that the vote was “illegitimate” while one independent observer said there had been ballot-box stuffing.

Putin with current president Dmitry Medvedev at a rally in Moscow last night
Putin with current president Dmitry Medvedev at a rally in Moscow last night
Image: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images

VLADIMIR PUTIN’S RETURN to the Kremlin has been secured after he won what appeared to be a decisive victory in the Russian presidential election overnight.

As the counting of ballots appeared to confirm the result of the initial exit polls – albeit with a smaller margin – Putin shed tears as he definitely claimed that he had triumphed over opponents who were intent on “destroying Russia’s statehood and usurping power” at a rally in Moscow.

However, opposition groups have claim widespread fraud, just as they did in last year’s parliamentary elections. A protest rally is planned in Moscow later today.

Independent election watchdog Golos said that Putin had won with just over 50 per cent of the vote, less than the the official figure given by the election commission which said he had nearly 64 per cent of the vote with more than 99 per cent of ballots, BBC News reports.

Alongside the incumbent who succeeded him four years ago, Dmitry Medvedev, the 59-year-old Putin told a rally: “I promised that we would win and we have won! We have won in an open and honest struggle.”

He said that the election showed that “our people can easily distinguish a desire for renewal and revival from political provocations aimed at destroying Russia’s statehood and usurping power.” Ending his speech, he triumphantly declared: “Glory to Russia!”

Tears could be seen rolling down his cheek although the current prime minister, who makes much of his reputation as the country’s strongman leader, blamed the wind and cold.

YouTube: Russianhockeyde

Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov was a distant second, followed by Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team in the US whose candidacy was approved by the Kremlin in what was seen as an effort to channel some of the protest sentiment.

Zyuganov, who polled under 18 per cent of the vote, told reporters after the polls closed that he would not recognise the result, calling it “illegitimate, unfair and non-transparent.”

The clownish nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and socialist Sergei Mironov trailed behind. The leader of the liberal opposition Yabloko party was barred from the race.

Golos claimed that there were numerous reports of so-called “carousel voting” where busloads of voters are driven around areas to cast ballots multiple times.

Golos – which is funded by the US government – claimed violations were as a high as during the parliamentary elections last December where Putin’s party secured the majority of seats in the Duma (parliament) although there were widespread protests against the result.

“If during the parliamentary elections, we saw a great deal of ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting … this time we saw the deployment of more subtle technologies,” said Andrei Buzin, who heads the monitoring operations at Golos.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has had 220 observers present and intends to present its findings later today.

Their number includes Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy who tweeted last night: ”Our count here (north Moscow) finished. Have results but not formally announced yet. If replicated, v interesting.”

Separately today, Medvedev, who will now leave office later this year, said that he had ordered the country’s prosecutor-general to review the conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The former oil tycoon’s imprisonment was widely viewed as Kremlin punishment for his political ambitions. Medvedev also ordered re-examining the conviction of Khodorkovsky’s business partner Platon Lebedev and 30 other people.

The order follows Medvedev’s meeting in February with leaders of the wave of massive protests that arose in December in response to the discredited parliamentary elections

Russian news reports say leaders at that meeting presented Medvedev with a list of names of those they regarded as political prisoners. It’s not clear whether the latest move will eventually result in pardons for those whose cases are being reviewed.

- with reporting from Associated Press

Exit polls: Putin wins Russia’s presidential vote

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Hugh O'Connell

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