Putin claims landslide victory as thousands protest against “rigged election”

Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election as exit polls declared that he had won more than 87% of the vote. Speaking at his campaign headquarters, Mr Putin thanked voters and “our warriors”, a reference to soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The result will secure Mr Putin another six years as Russian President. Thousands of people took part in protests as the United States declared that the election was neither free nor fair. Dozens of protesters were arrested in Russia as they joined queues outside polling stations at noon on the last day of voting, in a show of defiance called for by the widow of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly last month in an Arctic penal colony. If the 87% share of the vote for Mr Putin is confirmed it will be the biggest claimed victory for a candidate since the fall of the Soviet Union. It will also mean that Vladimir Putin overtakes Joseph Stalin to become the longest-serving Russian leader in more than 200 years. The result is expected to strengthen Mr Putin’s grip on power. It comes two years after the invasion of Ukraine and at a time of sweeping political repression in Russia, with Mr Putin condemned as an international pariah by many nations.

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