An exit poll showed Putin won Russia’s presidential election held on Sunday with 73.9 per cent of the vote, which will give the former spy another six years in the Kremlin.
The voting projection, by pollster VTsIOM, put Communist party challenger Pavel Grudinin in second place with 11.2 per cent.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, was on 6.7 per cent, and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak had 2.5 per cent.
The landslide victort for Putin extends his rule over the world’s largest country for another six years at a time when his ties with the West are on a hostile trajectory.
It comes after opinion polls hint Putin will win by a landslide and scoop around 70 percent of the vote, nearly 10 times the expected vote share of the 65-year-old’s closest rival.
Putin’s aides have been accused of inflating today’s Russian Presidential election turnout
“It’s degrading. We’re not sheep.”
At the end of his net Presidential term he would have been in power nearly a quarter of a century.
Only the Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin will have served for longer.
But Putin’s opponents have claimed officials were trying to inflate the turnout to make the former KGB spy more credible.
Yevgeny Roizman, a Kremlin opponent who is mayor of the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, said officials were using bribes and inducements to persuade people to vote.
He said: “They’re herding the whole country to the polling stations.
“It’s degrading. We’re not sheep.”
In the Khabarovsk region, on Russia’s Pacific coast, officials delivered supplies of eggs, tinned peas and frozen pike to polling stations.
It will be sold to voters at a discount of between 10 and 30 percent compared to prices in local shops.
Nikolai Kretsu, chairman of the consumer market committee in the regional administration said: “By doing this we hope to attract voters to the polling stations and we think we can increase turnout.
“The second objective is to strengthen allegiance towards the authorities.”
A survey by state-run pollster VTsIOM gave Putin, who was first elected president in 2000, support of a whopping 69 percent.
His nearest rival, Pavel Grudinin, the Communist Party’s candidate, has clawed his way to just seven percent.
Many voters credit Putin with standing up for Russia’s interests in a hostile outside world
The first politician in years to challenge the Kremlin’s grip on power, Alexei Navalny, is barred from the race because of a corruption conviction he says was fabricated by the Kremlin.
He is calling for a boycott of the election, saying it is an undemocratic farce, and deploying supporters to collect evidence of anyone rigging the ballot to exaggerate turnout and support for Putin.
The Kremlin and election officials say any fraud will be stamped out.
In an address to the nation broadcast on national television on Friday, Putin said voters held the fate of the country in their hands and urged them to vote.
A low turnout would diminish his authority in his next term, which, under the constitution, has to be his last.
But with little real contest and polls suggesting a predictable runway victory, a low turnout could threaten the election.
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Alexei Khvorostov, a resident of Krasnodar, in southern Russia, said: “There is no intrigue. I do not see any point for me in going to the election.”
Many voters credit Putin with standing up for Russia’s interests in a hostile outside world, despite the cost of locking horns with the West.
A row with the UK over damning claims the Kremlin poisoned former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, with a nerve toxin in sleepy Salisbury, Wiltshire, has not dented his standing.
Despite Moscow aberrantly denying the allegations, France, Germany, the US and UK said in a joint statement Russian involvement was “the only plausible explanation”.
Prime Minister Theresa May added: “This happened in the UK, but it could have happened anywhere and we are taking a united stance against it.”
Polls close at 6pm today
The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin who has dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, which gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.
Pensioner Galina Zhukova came to polling station number 1512 in Zelenodolsk, 500 miles east of Moscow, with her husband, Alexei, and arrived soon after the doors opened.
Alexei said: “We voted for Putin. Things are all right for us.”
Galina added: “And there’s no one else to vote for.”
A day of voting across Russia’s 11 time zones began at 8pm yesterday on Russia’s eastern edge, in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
There, voters were handed small plastic flags with the slogan ‘I love Kamchatka. We are the first’.
Polls close at 6pm today.