Putin Wins Fresh Six-Year Term in Russian Election

EPA-EFE  JIM LO SCALZO

Russian President Vladimir Putin won a fourth presidential term with almost 77 percent of the vote - his highest score ever and a massive mandate to pursue his nationalist, assertive policies for another six years in power.

In a surprising turn of events another newcomer to presidential politics, former TV-personality Ksenia Sobchak, is set to surpass all other minor opposition figures, receiving just under 2 percent. He told a meeting of supporters afterwards that hard times were ahead, but that Russian Federation had a chance to make "a breakthrough". Some see Sobchak, the daughter of Putin's one-time patron, as a Kremlin project meant to add a democratic veneer to the vote and help split the ranks of Kremlin critics.

Asked about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Britain, he said Russian Federation did not now have chemical weapons and it would be "nonsense" to think Russian Federation would launch such an attack in the lead up to an election.

He and the Central Election Commission may have gone through some of the motions of a democratic election - campaign speeches, letting opponents' names appear on the ballot, urging Russians to go to the polls - but, much like previous elections, the outcome was all but guaranteed. In Moscow alone, authorities spent 50 million rubles ($870,000) on balloons and festive decorations at polling stations.

Opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, says election officials padded the number of votes. For older voters, Moscow health authorities will be offering free cancer screenings at selected polling stations.

Election officials flew to far-flung regions to collect votes from indigenous herders, while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov - the only Russian now aboard the International Space Station - cast his ballot by proxy. "People were indignant at first, said "They're violating our rights" ... but what can you do?"

The commission said it is quickly responding to claims of violations in the vote.

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"China is willing to work with Russia to keep promoting China-Russia relations to a higher level, provide driving force for respective national development in both countries, and promote regional and global peace and tranquility", Xi said.

Yevgeny Roizman, the mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg, told The Associated Press that local officials and state employees have all received orders "from higher up" to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 percent.

Since first being elected as president in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on Russian Federation muzzling opposition and reasserting Moscow s lost might overseas.

The accusations ultimately bolstered Putin among a populace that sees him as their defender against a hostile outside world and the embodiment of Russia's resurgent power on the world stage. He has led the country for nearly two decades - either as president or prime minister.

If Putin, 65, serves his full term until 2024, he will be the first Kremlin leader to be in power two decades since Joseph Stalin.

Four years ago on March 18, Russian Federation annexed Crimea.

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